South Korea says it has successfully launched a satellite into orbit from its own soil for the first time

South Korea launches first satellite from home soil

South Korea says it has successfully launched a satellite into orbit from its own soil for the first time.

The high-stakes launch today came weeks after arch rival North Korea successfully launched its own satellite to the surprise of the world.

Previous attempts in 2009 and 2010 failed and two more recent launch attempts were aborted at the last minute because of technical problems, but science officials told cheering spectators that this rocket delivered an observational satellite into orbit

The South Korean rocket blasted off from a launch pad in the south-western coastal village of Goheung, and the new attempt came amid increased tension on the Korean peninsula over North Korea's threat to explode its third nuclear device.

The launch is a culmination of years of efforts by South Korea - Asia's fourth-largest economy - to advance its space programme and cement its standing as a technology powerhouse whose semiconductors, smartphones and cars command global demand.

The satellite launched by Seoul is designed to analyse weather data, measure radiation in space, gauge distances on Earth and test how effectively South Korean-made devices installed on the satellite operate in space.

South Korean officials said it will help them develop more sophisticated satellites in future.

US experts have described the North's satellite as tumbling in space and said it does not appear to be functioning, although Pyongyang has said it is working.

North Korea's long-range rocket programme, in contrast, has generated international fears that Pyongyang is getting closer to developing nuclear missiles.

Washington and Seoul have called North Korea's December 12 rocket launch a cover for a test of Pyongyang's banned ballistic missile technology.

Both Koreas see the development of space programmes as crucial hallmarks of their scientific prowess and national pride, and both had high-profile failures before success.

The South Korean rocket had its first stage designed and built by Russian experts under a contract between the two governments. North Korea built its rocket almost entirely on its own, South Korean military experts said earlier this month after analysing debris retrieved from the Yellow Sea in December.

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