South Korea has launched a rocket in its third attempt to place a satellite in space from its own soil.

The Naro rocket blasted off from a launch pad in the southwestern coastal village of Goheung Wednesday.

Science officials told cheering spectators minutes later that the rocket delivered an observational satellite into orbit.

Ju-ho Lee, the South Korean education, science and technology minister, said that South Korea had "leapt up a step" to become a space nation.

Russia designed the rocket's first stage [Reuters]

"The South Korean government will use this overwhelming moment as a strong, dynamic force to independently develop a South Korean space launch [programme] and will concentrate more on space development, so that we can go to space with our own technology around the year 2020," the minister said.

Wednesday's development came a month after the successful launch of a North Korean rocket.

Previous attempts by South Korea in 2009 and 2010 failed to launch; last-minute technical problems forced two recent efforts in October and November to be aborted.

The latest, and final, attempt comes amid increased tension on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's threat to explode its third nuclear device.

South Korea has so far spent nearly half a billion dollars on its Naro space programme.

North Korea's December 12 rocket launch, making it the 10th nation to launch a satellite into orbit from its own territory, has led to increased international sanctions on the country.

The South Korean rocket launched Wednesday had its first stage designed and built by Russian experts under a contract between the two governments.

North Korea built its rocket almost entirely on its own, South Korean military experts said earlier this month after analysing debris retrieved from the Yellow Sea in December.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies