South Korea has conducted the first test launch of its domestically manufactured rocket, joining the ranks of advanced space-faring nations.
Television images on Thursday showed the Korean Satellite Launch Vehicle II – informally called NURI, which means “world” rising upwards from the launch site in Goheung trailing a column of flame.
The three-stage rocket, emblazoned with South Korea’s flag and carrying a dummy satellite, blasted off at 4pm (07:00 GMT) from the Naro Space Centre, nearly 500 kilometers (311 miles) south of the capital, Seoul.
The NURI weighs 200 tons, is 47.2 meters (155 feet) long, and is fitted with a total of six liquid-fueled engines. It is designed to put 1.5-tonne payloads into orbit 600km to 800km (373 miles-497 miles) above the Earth and has been 10 years in development at a cost of 2 trillion won ($1.6bn).
South Korea has risen to become the world’s 12th-largest economy and a technologically advanced nation but has lagged in the headline-making world of spaceflight, where the Soviet Union led the way with the first satellite launch in 1957, closely followed by the United States.
China, Japan and India all have advanced space programs, and the South’s nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea put a 300-kg (660-pound) satellite into orbit in 2012 in what Western countries condemned as a disguised missile test.