South Korea’s space agency launched its first domestically built rocket into space Thursday but failed to put its 1.5-ton dummy payload into orbit.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) provided video of the 47-meter rocket, known as the Nuri, or world, blasting off and climbing into the sky from the Naro Space Center, the country’s lone spaceport on a small island off its southern coast.
South Korean Science Minister Lim Hye-sook told the Associated Press the rocket‘s first and second stages separated properly and that the third stage ejected the payload – a block of stainless steel and aluminum – 700 kilometers above Earth.
But she said launch data suggested that the third stage’s engine burned out after 475 seconds, about 50 seconds shorter than planned, failing to give the payload enough speed to stabilize in orbit.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was at the launch site, still described the test as an “excellent accomplishment” that takes the country a step further in its pursuit of a satellite launch program. He said the space agency plans to conduct as many as five more test launches, with the next set for early 2022.
Space launches have long been a sensitive issue on the Korean peninsula, where North and South Korea are technically still at war.
After relying on other countries to launch its satellites since the early 1990s, South Korea is now trying to become the 10th nation to send a satellite into space with its own technology.
The nation plans a range of military satellite launches but officials deny that the Nuri has any use as a weapon itself.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.