South Korea successfully launched a satellite-bearing rocket into orbit on Wednesday, finally joining the global space club after two failed attempts in 2009 and 2010.
The Naro rocket, partially developed with local technology and carrying the STSAT-2C scientific satellite, was launched at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Naro Space Center, located some 480 kilometers (300 miles) south of Seoul.
South Korean Science and Technology Minister Lee Ju-ho said the launch of the 140-ton rocket, the Asian nation's third attempt in four years to send a satellite into orbit, was a success.
The launch however, was partially overshadowed by the fact that North Korea - its impoverished communist neighbor - had already achieved that same feat a few weeks earlier.
Pyongyang put a satellite into orbit on Dec. 12 in defiance of the international community, which said the launch violated U.N. restrictions on the country's development of ballistic missile technology.
South Korea has roughly 10 satellites in orbit, but until now all had been launched using foreign rockets and launch pads.
On Wednesday, Asia's fourth-largest economy joined 12 other countries that have succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit with rockets at least partly developed with local technology.
The launch also helps bridge the aerospace gap between South Korea and Japan, China and India, all of which have their own space programs.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a statement delivered by his spokesman that the mission's success marks the first step toward the beginning of "an era of space science in earnest."
Seoul still is aiming for the entirely domestic production of space vehicles and to that end has begun building a 10-ton thrust engine, to be completed by 2016, and plans to develop a 75-ton thrust engine by 2018.
As part of that initiative, South Korea has the goal of developing a wholly domestically made rocket capable of carrying a 1.5-ton satellite into orbit by 2018 or 2019. EFE