South Korea fails to put satellite into orbit on domestic rocket

South Korea failed to deliver a satellite into orbit on Thursday, crushing its dream to become the 10th country in the world to reach the milestone using its own technology.

President Moon Jae-in said that the three-stage Nuri rocket could not reach orbit, although it flew as high as 700 km into space after all its three stages separated successfully.

"I am sorry that we could not reach the goal completely, but it's still a very excellent accomplishment," Moon said after the launch at the Naro Space Center on South Korea's southernmost island of Oenarodo. "We have an uncompleted mission to deliver a dummy satellite into orbit safely."

The Nuri rocket carrying a 1.5-ton dummy satellite was launched at 5 p.m. from the center. Nuri was initially scheduled to launch at 4 p.m., but was delayed by an hour for a technical issue in the launcher to be checked.

The failure will deal a blow to South Korea which has ambitions for an independent space development plan, and had hoped it would boost the country's private aerospace industry. The country spent 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) to develop Nuri -- a project worked on by 250 researchers from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the South Korean version of NASA.

On Tuesday, the presidential Blue House said the country aims to launch a rocket to send a moon explorer by 2030, but it may take some more time to make it come true.

As the launch turned out to be a failure, South Korea lost its chance to become the 10th country capable of sending a satellite into orbit with its own technology, and the seventh that can deliver a satellite weighing more than 1 ton. The country launched its first space rocket in 2013, but that was developed in cooperation with Russia.

Russia was the first country to reach the milestone, launching a space rocket in 1958, followed by the U.S. the following year. Others include Europe, China, Japan, India, Israel, Iran and North Korea.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said that more than 300 South Korean companies participated in the Nuri project. They include key aerospace and engineering companies such as Korea Aerospace Industries, Hanwha Aerospace and Hyundai Heavy Industries. The government said that in future, private companies will be given greater roles in developing rockets.

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