S. Korea joins global space club with satellite launch
SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea succeeded on Wednesday 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-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I) blasted off at 4pm (3pm Singapore time) 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 programme and realising its ambition of joining an elite global space club. Scientists and officials at the space centre cheered, applauded and hugged each other as the satellite was released.
In the capital, hundreds gathered in front of a giant television screen in the main train station cheered as the rocket blasted off, and again when the satellite deployment was confirmed. "After analysing various data, the Naro rocket successfully put the science satellite into designated orbit," Science Minister Lee Ju Ho told reporters at the space centre. "This is the success of all our people," Mr ee said.