SEOUL (BBC): South Korea has launched its first homegrown rocket Nuri in its bid to join the race for space exploration.
Also known as the Korean Satellite Launch Vehicle II, it took off from Goheung located 500km (310 miles) south of Seoul. It put a 1.5 tonne dummy satellite into orbit.
South Korea is the seventh country to successfully send a rocket into space.
But it also comes as an arms race heats up between North and South Korea. Both have recently test-fired new weapons.
Nuri cost South Korea an estimated 2 trillion won (£1.23bn or $1.6bn) to develop. Weighing 200 tonnes and measuring 47.2 metres long, it is fitted with six liquid-fuelled engines.
Its launch on Thursday afternoon was slightly delayed due to strong winds.
South Korea plans to carry out four more launches of the Nuri until 2027 to increase reliability, according to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) that is overseeing the launch.
While South Korea is seen as a technological powerhouse, it has lagged behind other countries in its development for space exploration.
Previous attempts by Seoul to launch a rocket in 2009 and 2010 failed, with the second exploding minutes after take-off.
While South Korea says it intends to use Nuri to launch satellites, the test has also been viewed as part of the country’s ongoing ramp-up in weapons development. Ballistic missiles and space rockets use similar technology.
South Korea recently tested a submarine-launched missile. It is also hosting what is said to be its largest ever defence exhibition this week, where it will reportedly unveil a new fighter jet and guided weapons like missiles.
Meanwhile North Korea has been carrying out a flurry of weapons tests. In recent weeks, it has launched what it said were hypersonic and long-range weapons.
Earlier this week, North Korea fired its own submarine-launched missile into the Sea of Japan.
Some of these tests by Pyongyang violate international sanctions, as the UN prohibits it from testing ballistic weapons and nuclear weapons.
North Korea also recently held its own defence expo where it showcased its military hardware including tanks and missiles.