Asia

South Korea launches space rocket carrying satellite

South Korea says its third attempt at launching a rocket to put a satellite in space has been a success.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) blasted off from the Naro Space Center at 16:00 (07:00 GMT).

Science Minister Lee Ju-ho said the satellite, which will collect climate data, was in its correct orbit.

The launch comes weeks after North Korea used its own three-stage rocket to place a satellite into orbit, sparking international criticism.

South Korea's 140-tonne rocket, known as Naro, was built in partnership with Russia, which had agreed to work with Seoul for three launch attempts.

Previous launches in 2009 and 2010 failed, and this attempt had been postponed twice for technical reasons.

But officials said Wednesday's launch from the site 480km (298 miles) south of Seoul had gone as planned and that the rocket had reached its target altitude and deployed its satellite.

"After analysing various data, the Naro rocket successfully put the science satellite into designated orbit," Mr Lee told reporters. He said the satellite had detached 540 seconds after launch.

"We now have leapt up a step to become a space-power nation," he said, adding that South Korea would use this "overwhelming moment as a strong, dynamic force" to help drive an independent space programme.

North fears

The satellite, called Science and Technology Satellite-2C, is designed to collect climate data. The Yonhap news said it was expected to make contact with its ground station at 05:00 on Thursday, at which point its operators will be able to make the final judgement on whether the launch achieved its goals.

South Korea does already have satellites in space, but they were launched from other countries.

South Koreans in Seoul watch the launch (30 Jan 2013)
Pressure is high on South Korea for the launch to be a success

On its first attempt to carry out a launch on its own soil, in 2009, the satellite failed to detach from the rocket in orbit. In 2010, the rocket exploded seconds after take-off.

Pressure for success has increased since North Korea launched a rocket that placed a satellite in orbit on 12 December. It followed the launch by announcing plans for a "high-level nuclear test" and more long-range rocket launches.

The UN said the North Korean launch constituted a banned test of missile technology and voted to extend sanctions against Pyongyang. There have been international calls for Pyongyang not to carry out the nuclear test.

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