Korea succeeded in launching its first homegrown rocket and placing a satellite into orbit on Wednesday.
The rocket, dubbed Naro, lifted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province at 4 p.m. on Wednesday carrying a 100 kg research satellite and put it into orbit at an altitude of 302 km, Education, Science and Technology Minister Lee Ju-ho told reporters an hour after liftoff.
"Thanks to the successful launch of Naro, we are now one step closer to becoming a space power," Lee said.
Previous attempts in 2009 and 2010 failed, and the third and final attempt was been postponed twice due to technical glitches.
The satellite made contact with a relay station in Norway for 10 minutes at 5:26 p.m., 86 minutes after liftoff. It also successfully sent a signal to a relay station at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon around 3:27 a.m. early Thursday.
But regardless of the success of the mission, the Naro rocket will no longer be used in Korea’s space program, because the government has already embarked on a project to develop by 2021 a wholly indigenous, three-stage rocket using liquid fuel.
The Naro was built jointly with Russia, with Korea building the second-stage of the rocket and its solid-fuel motor and payload and Russia supplying the first stage and liquid-fueled engine.