South Korea successfully launches satellite in orbit
Launch comes amid new threats from North Korea of new nuclear test
South Korea has declared that it has put a satellite in orbit for the first time, as if in response to a similar move by its belligerent neighbor, North Korea. The Naro-1 rocket blasted off from a launch site perched on the edge of an island near the country's southern coast and a local television broadcast showed it ascending into the sky.
As a crowd of onlookers near the site applauded and waved national flags, South Korean Science Minister Lee Ju-ho shortly afterwards declared the launch a success.
The move to lunch the satellite into space intensified after North Korea carried out its own successful launch last month in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
South Korea was forced to suspend its previous attempt to launch the Naro-1 rocket after finding problems with the electronic signal minutes before takeoff. Previous launch attempts in 2009 and 2010 had failed.
There are new tensions along the peninsula. North Korea said last week that it plans to conduct a new nuclear test and carry out more rocket launches after the U.N. Security Council voted to tighten sanctions on the secretive regime. Pyongyang is keeping mum on when this will occur. Previous underground detonations were held in 2006 and 2009.
Although the North's rocket launch last month managed to put an object in space, it was widely considered to be a test of long-range ballistic missile technology. It's unclear whether that satellite is functional.
North Korea declared that its missile and nuclear programs were part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States, threatening "physical counter-measures" against South Korea if it participates in the imposition of the new sanctions.
The satellite carried by the launch vehicle is mainly intended for gathering climate data and other atmospheric information, according to South Korean officials. Analysts point out that the South Korean launch is different from that of the North because it is more transparent, clearly focused on civilian applications and doesn't contravene U.N. sanctions.
The development of the South Korean rocket program, using Russian technology for the first-stage launcher, began in 2002.
Seoul is aiming to develop its own thruster by 2021 through a program estimated to cost about $1.4 billion in U.S. dollars.
The successful launch puts South Korea among the small group of nations that have sent a rocket into space from their own soil. Others include the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, India, Israel, Iran and North Korea.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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