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South Korea launches first rocket, satellite misses orbit

The launch could boost South Korea’s space ambitions, but the North warned it would keep a close eye on the international response.

The South Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 takes off from the launch pad at the Naro Space Center, in Goheung, south of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday.

Korea Aerospace Research Institute/AP

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South Korea launched its first rocket Tuesday, just months after rival North Korea’s launch drew international anger, but space officials said the satellite it carried failed to enter its intended orbit.

A Science Ministry statement called the launch a “partial success,” as the satellite separated from the rocket normally before entering a different orbit.

The launch could boost South Korea’s space ambitions, but the North warned it would keep a close eye on the international response. There was no immediate comment from North Korea.

The two-stage Naro rocket — delayed several times since July due to technical glitches — lifted off Tuesday from South Korea’s space center on Oenaro Island, about 290 miles (465 kilometers) south of Seoul, about 5 p.m. (0800 GMT, 4 a.m. EDT).

It was South Korea’s first launch of a rocket from its own territory. Since 1992, it has launched 11 satellites, all on foreign-made rockets sent from overseas sites.

The rocket, built with Russian help, was carrying a domestically built satellite aimed at observing the atmosphere and oceans.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said though the satellite failed to enter its planned orbit, it was a “half success.”

“We must further strive to realize the dream of becoming a space power,” Lee said after a Cabinet meeting, according to his office.

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