On Wednesday, South announced that it had successfully placed a satellite in orbit for the first time, boosting its homegrown space industry, and mirroring a feat achieved last month by its hostile neighbor, North Korea.
The Naro-1 rocket blasted off from a launch site perched on the edge of an island near the country’s southern coast. Officials and technicians watched the launch to see if it would succeed in delivering its payload into orbit. Science Minister Lee Ju-ho declared the launch a success approximately and hour after takeoff.
South Korea’s successful effort comes during a delicate time on the Korean peninsula: last week North Korea said that it plans to conduct a new nuclear test and carry out more rocket launches after the U.N. Security Council voted to tighten sanctions on the secretive regime.
Pyongyang didn’t indicate when it expects the tests will be conducted, which follows previous underground detonations in 2006 and 2009.
South Korean rocket scientists faced additional pressure to get the satellite into space increased after North Korea carried out its own successful launch last month in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
South Korean authorities say their latest attempted satellite launch is a crucial step for the development of the country’s civilian space program. The country already has a number of satellites in space, but they were launched in other countries using foreign rocket technology.
The satellite carried by this launch’s vehicle is mainly intended for gathering climate data and other atmospheric information, according to South Korean authorities.
Analysts have said the South Korean launch is different from that of the North because it is more transparent, clearly focused on civilian applications and doesn’t contravene U.N. sanctions.
Although the North’s rocket launch last month managed to put an object in space, it was widely considered to be a test of long-range ballistic missile technology. It’s unclear whether that satellite is functional.
North Korea last month said its missile and nuclear programs were part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States. It also threatened “physical counter-measures” against South Korea if it participates in the imposition of the new sanctions.
The successful launch puts South Korea among the small group of nations that have sent a rocket into space from their own soil. Others include the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, India, Israel, Iran and North Korea.