South Korea’s attempt to jump into the space race met with disaster today. A little more than two minutes after takeoff today, the nation’s Naro rocket exploded. It had been carrying a satellite, and South Korea was vying to become the tenth country to put a satellite in orbit with rockets assembled at home.
South Korea has invested more than 500 billion won (400 million dollars) and much national pride in the 140-ton Naro-1. The liquid-fuelled first stage of the rocket was made in Russia, while the second stage was built domestically, as was the satellite [AFP].
In Japan, meanwhile, happier news: Last month its space agency, JAXA, launched a batch of new missions into space that included its solar sail project, called Ikaros. Today it unfurled the sail, seen above in the blinding light of the sun.
After separating from Akatsuki [a separate probe going on to Venus], Ikaros began unfolding four panels that, when fully unfurled, should look like a square kite measuring 66 feet (20 meters) along its diagonal. Pictures sent back by a camera mounted on the spacecraft’s hub show the extension of four booms holding the panels, plus the unfurling of sail material. This is the “primary deployment” of the sail. During the secondary stage of deployment, the sail is stretched out to its full extent [MSNBC].