South Korea has successfully launched its first domestically developed space rocket, the science ministry said, in the second attempt months after a launch last October failed.
The Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle II, a 200-tonne liquid fuel rocket informally called Nuri, lifted off from the launch site in Goheung at 4pm (07:00 GMT) on Tuesday, with a commentator saying: “it seems it’s going according to the plan”.
Live TV footage showed the rocket with a national flag rising into the air with bright flames and above thick white smoke.
South Korea’s second test launch of its homegrown space rocket comes eight months after the first test failed to put a dummy satellite into orbit, a setback in the country’s attempt to join the ranks of advanced space-faring nations.
All three stages of the rocket worked in the first test last October, with the vehicle reaching an altitude of 700 kilometres (430 miles), and the 1.5-tonne payload separating successfully.
But it failed to put a dummy satellite into orbit after the third-stage engine stopped burning earlier than scheduled.
In Tuesday’s test, in addition to the dummy satellite, Nuri carried a rocket performance verification satellite and four cube satellites developed by four local universities for research purposes.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reported from the launch site, saying “it will be a big step forward for South Korea if they were able to master this” as only seven countries have launched commercial satellites.
“South Korea with its very advanced industries, high-tech manufacturing is a big producer of satellites, but until now it does have to rely on other people’s rockets to get up there to launch a satellite”. McBride added the commercial satellite business has become a lucrative investment in the country.
The three-stage Nuri rocket has been a decade in development at a cost of 2 trillion won ($1.5bn).
It weighs 200 tonnes and is 47.2 metres (155 feet) long, fitted with a total of six liquid-fuelled engines.
In Asia, China, Japan and India all have advanced space programmes, and the South’s nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea was the most recent entrant to the club of countries with their own satellite launch capability.