South Korea launches first space rocket, puts satellite in orbit


The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 blasts off at Goheung Space Center on January 30, 2013 in Goheung-gun, South Korea.


Korea Aerospace Research Institute

South Korea carried out its first successful space launch on Wednesday, becoming the 13th country in the world to put its own satellite into orbit.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, nicknamed Naro, blasted off at 4 p.m. local time, reached its target altitude and deployed a scientific data-gathering satellite, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

President Lee Myung Bak called it the first step into an "era of space science."

The pressure was on to catch up with North Korea, which put its first satellite into orbit last month.

Meanwhile South Korea had tried twice before to launch a space rocket, neither time successfully, while another two attempts last year had to be aborted due to technical problems, the BBC said.

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Unlike North Korea, which is believed to have made most of the key components of its space rocket in-country, South Korea relied on Russian technology for part of the KSLV-1. The rocket's first, booster stage was bought from Russian company Khrunichev, according to the New York Times, while South Korean engineers built the solid-fueled second stage and satellite themselves.

South Korea plans to launch an entirely home-grown and more sophisticated rocket by 2021, the Times said.

According to CNN, many see the accelerating space race in Asia as "a proxy for a regional arms race."

While North Korea is almost guaranteed to condemn Wednesday's launch, analysts told the network, other neighbors including China and Japan may also be apprehensive of South Korea's new, long-range capabilities.