On the 50th anniversary of Black Saturday, 1962, scattered rain showers and a technical malfunction discovered on Friday has grounded South Korea’s Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1. nicknamed the Naro for the third time. The cause could be a fuel valve.
The delay has been attributed to a leak in the connection between the first stage rocket and the launch pad, or CD-2, inlet of helium gas. The cause of the leak and why it wasn’t found during preparations held the previous day are still unknown, which is a source of great curiosity for those who closely monitored the launch.
At approximately 10am, technical staff at the Mission Control Center found that the helium pressure figures on the dashboard had not risen sufficiently, so they carried out a naked-eye inspection of the launcher and found gas leakage caused by a part of the seal protruding from a connecting region. The seal, a ring-shaped component, made from rubber, serves to stop gas leaks from the connecting pipe. The management committee for the Naro space rocket suspended the launch procedure right away. It is reportedly quite rare for rocket launches to be delayed due to damage to gas inlet seals.
Some wondered if problems might have arose in the process of converting the engine (RD-191, with 200 tons of thrust), which was originally designed for Russia’s next-generation rocket the “Angara,” into a mini-size configuration used for the Naro rocket (RD-151, with 170 tons of thrust). However, Prof. Yoon said, “The problem was not related to rocket engine itself, so it is more than likely that the problem was related to materials of parts or structure, and not to its design.”
Another issue is scheduling. Korean authorities received permission from the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, to launch the Naro by October 31. Inspection of the possible malfunction, which involves dissembling the rocket and the process of hoisting and lowering the vehicle could take considerably longer. After that, Korea needs to ask permission for another launch window.
As is known, North Korea has also had technical difficulties launching rockets. The spectacle of two Korean states competing for incompetence is a nail-biter. The diplomatic and military tensions exacerbated by nuclear and missile proliferation on the peninsula puts the international community on a new course, where, as Michael Krepon argues, previous arms race might not apply.
In the Cold War, hierarchy was clearly evident and structure could be reaffirmed by means of treaties. In Asia, hierarchy is not so clear (see point one), and the triangular competition among China, India and Pakistan does not lend itself to structural affirmation. If deterrence stability can be maintained in Asia, it is likely to occur through trade and economic interdependencies – something wholly lacking between the United States and the Soviet Union — as well as through norm building, tacit arrangements, and nuclear risk-reduction measures that have Western lineage, suitably adapted to Asia.
It feels like rain – not the good kind.