South Korea has successfully launched a space rocket carrying a science satellite, in a high-stakes test of national pride after North Korea got there first with a rocket launch last month. It was the South’s third attempt to launch a civilian rocket to send a satellite in orbit in the past four years.
It came after two previous launches were aborted at the 11th hour last year due to technical glitches. The launch vehicle, named Naro, lifted off from South Korea’s space centre on the south coast and successfully went through stage separation before entering orbit, officials at mission control said.
Initially scheduled for October 26, today’s launch had been twice postponed for technical reasons. The delay meant that rival North Korea was able to claim a rare technological victory over the South by launching a satellite into orbit on a three-stage rocket on December 12.
South Korea remains far behind regional rivals China and Japan in the effort to build space rockets to put satellites into orbit and has relied on other countries, including Russia, to join the space race ::::
“After analysing various data, the Naro rocket successfully put the science satellite into designated orbit,” South Korea’s Science Minister Lee Ju-Ho told reporters. “This is the success of all our people.”
President Lee Myung-Bak hailed the launch as the first step towards opening an “era of space science”.
“We took the first step toward opening an era of space science in earnest,” the president said in a message read by his spokesman. “We should make this an opportunity to elevate [South Korea’s] national power by a notch.”
South Korea’s rocket program has angered neighbour North Korea, which says it is unjust for it to be singled out for UN sanctions for launching long-range rockets as part of its space program to put a satellite into orbit.
North Korea’s test in December showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000km, potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea.
However, it is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States.
The test in December was considered a success, at least partially, by demonstrating an ability to put an object in space.
But the satellite, as claimed by the North, is not believed to be functioning.
South Korea is already far behind regional rivals China and Japan in the effort to build space rockets to put satellites into orbit and has relied on other countries, including Russia, to launch them.
Launch attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure.
The first stage booster of the South Korean rocket was built by Russia.
The KSLV-I satellite weighs 100 kilograms, has a one-year operational lifespan and will mainly collect data on space radiation.
South Korea wants to build a rocket on its own by 2018 and eventually send a probe to the moon.
image source: afp