South Korea today came close to joining the small club of nations that can build and launch their own orbital-class rockets, with its maiden attempt blasting off successfully then failing to deploy its payload.
At 5pm local time (UTC+9), the rocket, named Nuri, or KSLV-II, left its launchpad at Naro Space Center, destined for low-Earth orbit with a 1.5-ton dummy payload. But while all the three stages of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle II worked and the initial payload separation was fine, the dummy satellite was not placed into orbit as planned.
It wasn't immediately clear what went wrong, although South Korean President Moon Jae-in, speaking from the Naro spaceport, said the payload did not stabilize in orbit after separation. It appears the rocket's third-stage engine stopping running after 475 seconds, about 50 seconds earlier than planned, leading to the failed deployment.