The launch of Naro-1 – (Source: Reuters).

Fifteen months after Naro-1 rocket’s failure, Russia and the South Korean government still disagree on the cause of the mid-air explosion, just 137 seconds after liftoff, according to Yonhap news reports. With a cost of 407 million US$, covered by the South Korean government, South Korea’s first space rocket included a Russian first stage and a South Korean second stage. On June 10, 2010, despite a nominal liftoff, the satellite launcher exploded at an altitude of approximately 70 km.

After an initial hypothesis blaming the payload fairing, followed by a number of politically driven and speculative statements, a joint committee of Russian and South Korean experts was formed in order to investigate the cause of the failure. Thirteen engineers from each country began investigation in August 2010, but as of November 2010 a definitive cause was not determined. A new committee consisting of 30 people was formed. According to the South Korean government, after a two-day meeting held in Seoul in mid-October, the committee only offered general recommendations that will help prevent all the possible causes suggested, but failed to reach a conclusion that satisfied both parties.

The director of Russia’s Krunichev State Research and Space Center, builder of the vehicle’s first stage, declared that the telemetry data received did not indicate any mishaps in the performance of the first stage. An independent Russian commission stated that the error was in the second stage, produced by the South Korean Space Agency (KARI) and Korean Air. Despite the disappointment, Korean officials have been quoted as vowing to continue efforts on joining in space exploration and becoming a space power.

Video, below, the ill-fated launch of Naro-1.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNE3OHjjVGo]