Government officials hope the project, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will give a boost to the country's high-tech sector.

But the planned launch has also been criticised by neighbouring North Korea, which says it was unfairly punished for a similar launch earlier this year and is a victim of double standards.

Equality

SOUTH KOREA'S SPACE DREAMS

Two-stage rocket dubbed Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), aims to launch 100 kg satellite that will monitor Earth's radiant energy.

 Rocket is 33 metres long and can generate 170 tonnes of thrust.

 Built at a cost of $400m in cooperation with Russia's Khrunichev space production centre which built the main thrusters for the first stage.

 South Korea aims to build a rocket completely on its own by 2018 and launch a probe to the moon by 2025, eventually sending its own astronauts into space.

Commenting on the planned South Korean launch, the North said last week that it would be watching closely to see whether the international community would also refer the South to the United Nations Security Council.

"Their reaction and attitude towards South Korea's satellite launch will one again clearly prove whether the principle of equality exists or has collapsed," a statement on the North's official news agency said.

According to North Korean state media its April launch of a three-stage rocket successfully placed an experimental communications satellite into orbit.

The US and it allies however say no satellite was detected in orbit, and that the launch was cover for a test of the North's long-range missile technology.

In response to the launch, the security council tightened international sanctions against North Korea, prompting Pyongyang to announce it was pulling out of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

A month later North Korea conducted its second nuclear test.

South Korean space officials insist their own planned rocket launch cannot be compared to the North's rocket and poses no security threat.

"We can't put the North's rocket launch on a parallel with ours," Park Jeong-joo, director of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, told reporters last month.

South Korea's rocket, he said, was "purely for scientific and peaceful purposes".