The Nuri rocket, the first domestically produced space rocket, sits on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea, Oct. 20, 2021. -AP
South Korea test launched its first domestically produced space rocket on Thursday in what officials describe as an important step in the country's pursuit of a satellite launch program. It wasn't immediately clear whether the three-stage Nuri rocket succeeded in delivering a dummy payload - a 1.5-ton block of stainless steel and aluminum - into orbit 600 to 800 kilometers (372 to 497 miles) above Earth.
Live footage showed the 47-meter (154 foot) rocket soaring into the air with bright yellow flames shooting out of its engines following blastoff at Naro Space Center, the country's lone spaceport, on a small island off its southern coast. The launch, which was observed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, was delayed by an hour because engineers needed more time to examine the rocket's valves. There had also been concerns that strong winds and other conditions would pose challenges for a successful launch. Officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the country's space agency, said it would take about 30 minutes to determine whether the rocket successfully delivered the payload into orbit. Nuri's largest first stage, the core booster stage, was expected to land in waters southwest of Japan after separation, and its second stage was expected to fall in remote Pacific waters east of the Philippines.
about 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) away from the launch site. The smallest third stage carries the payload and is designed to place it into orbit.
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 country is also hoping to send a probe to the moon by 2030.
--- AP, Seoul, South Korea