On Wednesday, South Korea successfully launched a rocket to put a satellite into space, weeks after North Korea launched a weather satellite into orbit in December.
The rocket was launched from the Naro Space Center, in the city of Goheung as crowds gathered to watch. The 140 ton Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), or Naro rocket was developed by South Korea with some assistance from Russia. Russia's space agency assisted them in developing the first stage of the rocket. The success of the launch makes South Korea the 11th country to put a satellite into space. "After analyzing various data, the Naro rocket successfully put the science satellite into designated orbit," said Science Minister Lee Ju-Ho at the space center. "This is the success of all our people, said Lee.
The launch was first attempted in 2009 but was unsuccessful when the satellite that was attached to it separated earlier then it was supposed to. Another attempt occurred in 2010 but before it could exit the Earth's atmosphere, the rocket exploded. If a third failed launch occurred, the country's international image related to space advancement efforts would be damaged, some South Korean politicians feared.
In comparison, the European Space Agency and Japan failed four times over the years before finally achieving a successful launch.
"The pressure is on the South Koreans like never before," said independent space analyst Morris Jones before the launch. "There are several converging factors - the two previous failures, North Korea's success and the fact that this is the last chance with this particular rocket model," Jones said.
North Korea succeeded last month, only after its fifth attempt. The launch was initially viewed internationally as a missile ballistic test in disguise. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland from the U.S State Department said that South Korea acted responsibly with their technological development. She says the launch poses no military threat and that South Korea actively participates in international nonproliferation agreements.
South Korea was determined to develop a rocket of high caliber to compete with the world of technological space development. The advancements of its space program help South Korea to underline its standing as a technology powerhouse. They have earned the title of being Asia's fourth largest economy due in part, to the high global demand of smartphones and automobiles.