South Korea successfully launches first satellite

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South Korea on Wednesday successfully launched a satellite for the first time, just a month after the internationally-condemned rocket launch by North Korea, in a move that could ratchet up competition for power in the Korean peninsula.

The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I) blasted off at 4:00 pm (0700 GMT) from the Naro Space Center, successfully reaching its target altitude nine minutes later and deploying its payload satellite, according to AFP.

The satellite will be used to study climate change, Seoul officials said.

Wednesday’s launch boosted South Korea in reaching its ambitions of joining an elite global space club following two successive failures in 2009 and 2010. The setbacks gave North Korea leeway to become the first on the Korean peninsula to successfully put a satellite into orbit.

“I celebrate with all the people of Korea the opening of the new space age,” said outgoing South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. “Let us all use this opportunity to upgrade Korea’s national strength to a higher level”.

North Korea took a swipe at the move, saying it signifies “double standards” in the international community amid widespread criticism and condemnation of Pyongyang’s launch in December.

“We, like everyone else, have the right to launch satellites,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.