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South Korea launches first satellite with homegrown rocket

SEOUL (AP) – South Korea conducted its first successful satellite launch using a domestically developed rocket yesterday, officials said, boosting its growing aerospace ambitions and demonstrating it has key technologies needed to launch spy satellites and build larger missiles amid tensions with North Korea.

The three-stage Nuri rocket placed a functioning “performance verification” satellite at a target altitude of 700 kilometres after its 4pm liftoff from South Korea’s space launch centre on a southern island, the Science Ministry said.

The satellite transmitted signals about its status to an unmanned South Korean station in Antarctica.

It is carrying four smaller satellites that will be released in coming days for Earth observation and other missions, ministry officials said. “The science and technology of Korea made a great advance,” Science Minister Lee Jong-Ho said in a televised news conference at the launch centre. “The government will continue its march toward becoming a space power together with the people.”

In a video conference with scientists and others involved in the launch, President Yoon Suk Yeol congratulated them for their achievement and vowed to keep his campaign promise to establish a state aerospace agency, according to his office.

The launch made South Korea the 10th nation to place a satellite into space with its own technology.

It was South Korea’s second launch of a Nuri rocket. In the first attempt last October, the rocket’s dummy payload reached the desired altitude but didn’t enter orbit as the engine of the rocket’s third stage burned out earlier than planned.

The Nuri rocket, the first domestically produced space rocket, lifts off from a launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung, South Korea. PHOTO: AP
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