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Space

South Korea successfully launches first rocket into space

South Korea has launched its first successful satellite from its own territory, an accomplishment that rival North Korea achieved last month. The launch was Seoul’s third attempt to put a satellite into space.

South Korea launched a rocket carrying a science satellite on Wednesday in its third attempt to put a probe in orbit from its own soil. State media said the operation was a success. The launch comes just weeks after Seoul's rival North Korea succeeded in a similar mission.

The 140-ton Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I), named Naro, lifted off from South Korea's space center on the south coast and successfully went through stage separation before entering orbit, officials at the mission control said.

The launch was originally scheduled for October 26, but due to technical reasons it was delayed twice, which meant that rival North Korea beat the South by launching their satellite on December 12.

The North's launch was condemned by much of the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test. The UN Security Council passed a resolution that condemned the rocket launch as a violation of an existing ban against nuclear and missile activity. That restriction was imposed after North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

In turn, Pyongyang reacted by threatening to carry out a nuclear test.

South Korea already lags far behind other regional players in building rockets to launch satellites and has relied on other countries, including Russia, to launch them.

Wednesday's mission was the last under the South's current agreement with Russia, which provided the first stage for the last three rockets. The partnership has not been an easy one with attempts in 2009 and 2010 ending in failure.

South Korea, now the 13th country to send a rocket into space from its own territory, aspires to build a rocket on its own by 2018 and eventually send a probe to the moon.

hc/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)