South Korea goes to space

The country becomes the 11th to successfully launch a satellite using its own rocket

Topics: GlobalPost, South Korea, Asia, Japan, NASA, North Korea,

South Korea goes to spaceSouth Korea's rocket takes off from its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (Credit: AP/Yonhap, Lee Sang-hak)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global Post SEOUL, South Korea — It’s official: the hyper-wired tech center of Asia, South Korea, has joined the global space club, just weeks after its isolated archrival North Korea accomplished the same.

Following two botched satellite launch attempts, an air of tension surrounded the televised countdown today at the Naro Space Center, off the country’s remote southern coast.

Upon lift-off, Korean television broadcasted the crowd of onlookers applauding and cheering, a relief from the anxiety beforehand.

The two-staged Naro space rocket, known in long-form as the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), finally accomplished its mission after its second stage went into orbit, delivering a South Korean satellite into outer space.

“Building a rocket was difficult with our past challenges,” Kim Hong-gab, the deputy spokesman from the Korean space agency, the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), told GlobalPost by telephone from the launch site. “There was a lot of technological knowledge that we learned from our Russian partners.”

In a token of national pride, South Korea has earned the badge as the 11th country to successfully launch a satellite using its own rocket.

Edging out Seoul at No. 10? The answer might surprise you: North Korea.

After two failures in August 2009 and June 2010, the takeoff today was South Korea’s third attempt to shoot a research satellite into space on its home turf. Last October and November, two more launches were delayed when authorities found defective parts.

Then Kim Jong-un scored a lucky hit with his outdated, rickety rocket technology. In mid-December, Pyongyang defied international sanctions when it lofted its indigenously built Unha-3 rocket, putting the country’s first satellite into orbit to commemorate the first anniversary death of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il. Since the 1990s, North Korea hadn’t succeeded at four other satellite attempts.

For North Korea, the triumph wasn’t lasting. American officials reported that the hermit state had lost control of the device, which is now tumbling in orbit. North Korean officials maintain that the device is working.



They also claimed Pyongyang could use the satellite to expand its nuclear program, and could eventually acquire the capabilities to lob a long-range missile at North America.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council responded to the December lift-off by expanding sanctions against the hermit state. In a tit-for-tat, the regime is now threatening to test its third nuclear weapon, an event that experts warn could be “imminent” following earlier explosions in 2006 and 2009.

An unforgiving science

It’s understandable, then, why the South Korean space agency, based in the city of Daegu, was under pressure to nail this attempt. “Launching the first rocket is the hardest for any country,” said Brian Harvey, the Dublin-based author of “Emerging Space Powers.”

Contenders for global space-power celebrity have run into similar blocks, he added. After a series of faltering tries, cutting-edge Japan found relief when it sent its first satellite into orbit in 1970.

Technologically speaking, South Korea never really lagged behind the North, despite its rocket hassles. Even before today’s successful launch, the country could boast of its expertise making and commissioning satellites around the world. Since the 1990s, the country has sent around 10 satellites into space — but all from foreign soil and using foreign rockets.

The south’s “greater maturity in building and operating satellites,” Harvey said, “means that it should progress quite quickly.” So even though Seoul technically ranks one spot behind Pyongyang, strong technology means it’ll dash ahead in the space-rocket game.

Russian alliance

The South Korean space agency, KARI, was founded in the late 1980s, around the same time the country was graduating to developed country status.

But it wasn’t until 2004 that South Korea signed a space cooperation pact with Russia, bringing the peninsula all sorts of advanced rocketry. “Russian rocket engines are the best in the world, 40 to 50 years ahead of other countries,” Harvey said.

Four years later, the first Korean astronaut, Yi So-Yeon, accompanied Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station from a launch pad in Uzbekistan. South Korea even spent millions of dollars creating a new type of space kimchi, the country’s staple fermented cabbage, that Yi could enjoy on her trip.

The Russian space agency also built the first-stage engine of the Naro rocket, while South Korean engineers handled the second stage.

“But we’re hoping to launch our own indigenous rocket by 2018 or 2020,” said Kim, the deputy spokesman, pegging 2021 as the latest date that the government has in mind. It’s a marker of even more technological prestige for a world leader in smart phones and electronics, but one that’s ironically a newcomer to the space race.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>