South Korea has launched its first space rocket carrying a science satellite amid heightened regional tensions, caused in part by North Korea’s successful launch of a rocket last month.
It was South Korea’s third attempt in four years to launch a civilian rocket that would deliver a satellite into orbit, and came after two previous launches were aborted at the 11th hour last year due to technical glitches.
The launch vehicle, named Naro, lifted off yesterday from South Korea’s space centre on the south coast and went through stage separation before entering orbit, officials at the mission control said. Previous launches failed within minutes.
South Korea’s rocket programme has angered neighbour North Korea, which says it is unjust for the North to be singled out for United nations sanctions for launching long-range rockets as part of its space programme to put a satellite into orbit.
North Korea’s test in December showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 6,200 miles, potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea.
The test in December was considered a success, but the satellite – as claimed by the North – is not believed to be functioning.