South Korea succeeded today in its third attempt to put a satellite into orbit, in a high-stakes test of national pride after arch-rival North Korea got there first with a rocket launch last month.
The 140-ton Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I) blasted off at 4:00 pm (0700 GMT) from the Naro Space Center on the south coast, reaching its target altitude nine minutes later and deploying its payload satellite.
A positive outcome after successive failures in 2009 and 2010 was critical to ensuring the future of South Korea’s launch program and realizing its ambition of joining an elite global space club.
Scientists and officials at the space center cheered, applauded and hugged each other as the satellite was released.
Initially scheduled for October 26, Wednesday’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 was a late entrant to the high-cost world of space technology and exploration, and repeated failures had raised questions over the viability of the launch program.