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South Korea Fails Again in Rocket Launch

South Korea has failed in its second attempt to join the elite league of nations able, from home soil, to launch a rocket into space and place a satellite into orbit.

Spectators along a southern coastal beach and millions more South Koreans television viewers watched Thursday's blast-off of the 33-meter-long two-stage launch vehicle, the Naro-1.

Atop the 140-ton rocket, a research satellite whose successful deployment would achieve history. But 137 seconds after it departed the launch pad, communications with the rocket were lost.

Ground controllers saw an unexpected flash on their monitors. Officials say the rocket may have exploded during the ascent.

Education, Science and Technology Minister Ahn Byong-man lamented this latest failure.

The minister says it is regrettable that the mission again did not live up to people's expectations and this is a humbling lesson. He adds the country will keep trying.

There was an attempt last August to deploy a similar satellite, the size of a washing machine, designed to measure radiation energy in the atmosphere. But the satellite did not release from the rocket after shields protecting it failed to retract.

North Korea has previously claimed to have launched its own satellites. But international space watchers say there is no evidence Pyonygang's missile technology, illegal under U.N. sanctions, has successfully deployed a payload.

In Tokyo, aerospace consultant Lance Gatling says national space programs remain expensive and difficult, a half century after the initial forays by the Soviet Union and United States.

"The development does, in fact, cost a tremendous amount of money. It's one of the harder things that a group of people can get together to do - to actually launch a large mass into orbit and to put it where you need it and not blow it up," said Gatling.

South Korea hopes to eventually take part in the $250 billion global space-services market. Its indigenous program is a collaboration among 160 South Korean companies, with rocket technology partly designed by Russia.