South Korea successfully launched its first rocket on Tuesday, but the satellite payload failed to reach its designated orbit, officials said. The rocket, a two-stage rocket, called the Naro lifted off on schedule at 5:00 pm local time, (0800 GMT). The first stage separated successfully less than five minutes after lift-off and the South Korean-built 100-kilogram (220-pound) scientific research satellite was placed into Earth orbit. But science and technology minister Ahn Byong-Man said it was not following the designated orbit, hampering communications with mission control. “All aspects of the launch were normal, but the satellite exceeded its planned orbit and reached an altitude of 360 kilometres (225 miles),” Ahn said.
A spokesperson from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told Yonhap news agency they were trying to track the whereabouts of the satellite and declined to say if contact could be made later. Engineers from South Korea and Russia, who helped construct the rocket, are looking to find the exact cause of the failure. The science satellite was supposed to observe the atmosphere and ocean.
They said that despite the satellite’s failure to reach its proper orbit, the launch should be seen as a “half success” since the rocket functioned without any problem.
The launch, was watched closely by rival North Korea. Watch the video above for more on this launch, and the tensions between North and South Korea.