S. Korea launches homegrown space rocket in 2nd such attempt
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea launched its first domestically built space rocket on Tuesday in the country’s second attempt, months after its earlier liftoff failed to place a payload into orbit.
A successful launch would boost South Korea’s growing space ambitions but also prove it has key technologies to build a space-based surveillance system and bigger missiles amid animosities with rival North Korea, some experts say.
The three-stage Nuri rocket carrying what officials call a functioning “performance verification” satellite blasted from South Korea’s only space launch center on a small island off its southern coast at 4 p.m. Live TV footage showed the rocket with a national flag rising into the air with bright flames and above thick white smokes.
Officials are to announce the results of the launch later Tuesday.
In the first attempt last October, the rocket's dummy payload reached its desired altitude of 700 kilometers (435 miles) but didn't enter orbit because the engine of the rocket’s third stage burned out earlier than planned.
If Tuesday’s launch is successful, South Korea would become the world’s 10th nation to place a satellite into space with its own technology.
South Korea, the world’s 10th-largest economy, is a main supplier of semiconductors, automobiles and smartphones on world markets. But its space development program lags behind that of its Asian neighbors China, India and Japan.
North Korea placed its first and second Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016 though there is no proof that either one has ever transmitted spaced-based imagery and data back home. Those North Korean launches invited U.N. economic sanctions because they were viewed as covers for testing the country’s banned long-range missile technology.