Skip to main content

South Korean rocket successfully puts satellite in orbit

By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen, CNN
January 30, 2013 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
  • NEW: South Korea was forced to suspend its previous attempt weeks earlier
  • Other launch attempts in 2009 and 2010 had failed
  • North Korea successfully launched its own rocket last month, defying U.N. resolutions
  • Seoul says it is trying to develop its own civilian space program

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea said Wednesday that it had put a satellite in orbit for the first time, giving a lift to its homegrown space industry and matching a feat achieved last month by its hostile neighbor, North Korea.

Amid a billowing plume of smoke, the Naro-1 rocket blasted off from a launch site perched on the edge of an island near the country's southern coast. South Korean television footage showed it ascending into the clear blue sky.

South Korean officials: North Korean rocket could hit U.S. mainland

Officials and technicians watched the launch intently to see if it would succeed in delivering its payload into orbit. A crowd of onlookers near the site applauded and waved national flags.

About an hour after takeoff, Science Minister Lee Ju-ho declared the launch a success.

North Korea on Google Maps: Monuments, nuclear complex, gulags

South Korea launches its own rocket

The pressure on the South Korean rocket scientists to get the satellite into space increased after North Korea carried out its own successful launch last month in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Only weeks before that, the South was forced to suspend its previous attempt to launch the Naro-1 rocket after finding problems with the electronic signal just minutes before it was due to take off.

The country's previous launch attempts in 2009 and 2010 had failed.

After threats against U.S., North Korea turns ire to South

Wednesday's successful effort comes at a delicate time on the Korean 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 didn't say when it intends to carry out the nuclear test, which follows previous underground detonations 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 says new nuclear test will be part of fight against U.S.

Saber-rattling statements

In its saber-rattling statements last month, North Korea said its missile and nuclear programs were part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States. It also threatened "physical counter-measures" against South Korea if it participates in the imposition of the new sanctions.

South Korean authorities say their latest attempted satellite launch is a crucial step for the development of the country's civilian space program. The satellite carried by the launch vehicle is mainly intended for gathering climate data and other atmospheric information, they say.

Is Asia on cusp of space race?

Analysts have said 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 1.5 trillion won (about $1.4 billion).

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.

South Korea already has a number of satellites in space, but they were launched in other countries using foreign rocket technology.

Opinion: Rescind North Korea's license to provoke

CNN's K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.