South Korea Succeeds in Space Launch — UPDATE

South Korea Succeeds in Space Launch — UPDATE

UPDATE, January 31, 2013 EST):   South Korea has confirmed that the satellite is functioning properly.  Also, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented on the difference between South Korea’s and North Korea’s space launches. This story is updated accordingly.

ORIGINAL STORY,  January 30, 2013 (Eastern Standard Time):  South Korea succeeded in placing a satellite into orbit early this morning Eastern Standard Time (4:00 pm local time in South Korea).  This was the country’s third attempt and first success.

The launch of the Korean Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1, also known as Naro-1, took place from the Naro Space Center as did the previous attempts in 2009 and 2010.   The first stage of the KSLV is built by Russia; the second stage by South Korea.

January 30, 2013 launch of South Korea’s KSLV-1 from Naro Space Center.   Source:  Yonhap/Reuters via New York Times

South Korea now joins North Korea in having successfully placed a satellite into orbit, although the international reaction is quite different. 

The United States and the United Nations both condemn North Korea’s space launch program on the basis that it is a disguise for developing ballistic missiles and destabilizes the region.   In 2009, at the time of South Korea’s first launch attempt, the U.S. State Department made the distinction between the space launch programs of the two countries and why it condemns one but not the other.   State Department spokesman Ian Kelly pointed out that North Korea is under U.N. sanctions that prohibit development of ballistic missiles, while South Korea has developed its program in an “open and transparent way and in keeping with the international agreements” it has signed.   Similarly, on January 30, 2013, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated that the United States sees “no basis” for comparing the behavior of South Korea with that of North Korea since North Korea is under U.N. sanctions not to develop ballistic missile technology and its program is not transparent like South Korea’s.

North Korea was undeterred by two U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted in 2006 (Resolution 1718) and 2009 (Resolution 1874) prohibiting rocket launches and in December 2012 succeeded in placing the Kwangmyongsong-3 remote sensing satellite into orbit with its Unha-3 rocket.   It was the first success in four tries. On January 22, 2013 the U.N. Security Council adopted a third resolution, Resolution 2087, imposing more sanctions after the United States and China reached agreement on its wording.  North Korea appeared unmoved by the action, announcing plans to test a nuclear weapon.

Today’s launch of Science and Technology Satellite-2C (STSAT-2C) by South Korea had been delayed several times for technical reasons.  South Korea plans to develop its own indigenous rockets rather than continuing to rely on Russia for the first stage.  The satellite was built by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KARI) and is intended to collect data on space radiation. 

South Korea’s Yonhap news service reported on January 30 that beacon signals were received from the satellite after achieving orbit, but it would be several hours before KARI can confirm its health. On January 31, it confirmed that the satellite is healthy.

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