South Korea launched its first space rocket on January 30, 2013. With the launch of the rocket that carried a science satellite into space, the country announced its presence in the global space race, becoming the latest entrant into the exclusive league of space-faring nations. It is worth mentioning here that the other countries with space-faring abilities include Russia, the US, the UK, France, Japan, China, India, Israel, Ukraine, Iran and North Korea. The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I) blasted off from the Naro Space Centre on the country’s south coast. It successfully went through the stage separation process before reaching its target altitude nine minutes after the launch and deploying its payload satellite.
It was South Korea’s third attempt at launching a satellite all on its own. It was also the first positive outcome after two successive failures in 2009 and 2010. The two earlier launches had to be aborted at the last minute owing to technical glitches. These failures had set back the country’s space ambitions by several notches. After the success of the latest venture, South Korean scientists and officials cheered and applauded, congratulating each other on the feat that firmly put the country among the ones occupying the high-table in space-faring.
South Korea is already far behind regional rivals China and Japan in satellite technology. Till now the country has not had any spectacular success in its efforts to build space rockets for putting satellites into orbit. In its previous launch attempts, South Korea had relied on other countries, particularly Russia, to conduct launches. The first stage booster of the rocket for the latest launch was built by Russia. Although South Korea has produced several satellites till date, mastery in making rockets continues to elude its scientists. The country has said that it wants to build a rocket on its own by 2018 and eventually send a probe to the moon.