South Korea successfully launched a rocket into space Wednesday, giving a boost to its domestic space work and meeting head-on the challenge of its hostile neighbor, North Korea, which successfully launched a rocket the previous month.
South Korean officials said that their rocket had successfully put a satellite in orbit, overshadowing its failed attempts in 2009 and 2010.
The rocket, KSLV-1, blasted off from the Naro Space Center, near the city of Goheung on the country's south coast, at 07:00 GMT. Shortly after, authorities announced that the launch seemed to have been a success. Reports suggest that the two-stage rocket carried a research satellite.
The launch was watched by crowd gathered on rocky hills and small islands around the launching site. As the rocket took off, the crowd of watchers near the site celebrated and waved national flags in jubilation. Moreover, the rocket launch was telecast live on national television networks.
South Korean rocket scientists were under immense pressure to launch a satellite into space after North Korea, which launched its own rocket into space in December in defiance of UN resolutions.
According to reports, the South developed the rocket with the help of Russia's space agency, which is said to have built the rocket’s first stage. After the apparent successful launch, television footages showed Korean and Russian authorities cheering in a viewing center somewhere around the launch location.
South Korea’s rocket launch comes at a fragile and sensitive time on the Korean peninsula. The North openly stated the previous week that it intended to carry out a new nuclear test and launch more rockets. The North Korean warnings came after the UN Security Council passed a resolution to toughen sanctions on the North’s regime.
Even though North Korea’s December rocket launch successfully placed a satellite in orbit, it is being widely considered as a test of long-range missile intended to target the United States. The North’s aggressive regime also recently hinted at the same.
South Korea has now become the 11th country to successfully put a satellite into space with a rocket developed domestically. The US and Soviet Union pioneered space rocket launches in the late 1950s.