S Korea launches first rocket

S Korea launches first rocket

The South Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 lifts off from the launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung, south of Seoul, on Tuesday. AP

A problem quickly surfaced, however, when space officials said that an initial investigation showed that the satellite the rocket was carrying apparently failed to enter its intended orbit.

Science and Education Minister Ahn Byong-man told reporters that South Korean and Russian scientists were looking into the problem. It was not immediately clear whether the problem jeopardises the success of the launch.

The launch of the two-stage Naro rocket could boost the country’s space ambition but the North warned it would keep a close eye on the international response to Seoul’s launch.

South Korea initially planned to launch the rocket in late July but delayed it several times due to technical glitches. Last Wednesday, the country aborted the launch plan just minutes before the scheduled blast off.

But on Tuesday the rocket lifted off from the country’s space centre in Oenaro Island, about 465 kilometres south of Seoul, around 5 pm.

It is South Korea’s first launch of a rocket from its own territory. Since 1992, it has launched 11 satellites, all on foreign-made rockets sent from overseas sites.

The rocket, built with Russian help, was carrying a domestically-built satellite aimed at observing the atmosphere and ocean.

South Korean officials hope the rocket will boost the country’s aim to become a regional space power, along with China, Japan and India. North Korea, however, has warned it would “closely watch” how the US and other neighbouring countries respond to the South’s launch.

In April, the North claimed it launched a multistage rocket it said was mounted with a satellite. The US, Japan and other nations condemned the launch as a test of ballistic missile technology since the same rocket can be mounted with a warhead.