South Korea successfully conducted a third test flight of a solid-fuel space rocket on Monday.
According to the defense ministry, the space launch vehicle lifted off from a floating pad four kilometers south of Jeju Island at 2 p.m., putting a small Earth observation satellite into orbit at an altitude of 650 kilometers.
While the two previous test flights saw dummies loaded in place of a satellite and had no first-stage booster, Monday’s flight had such a propellant and carried a 100-kilogram synthetic aperture radar satellite made by Hanwha Systems.
The aerospace and defense company said its satellite control center in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province successfully made contact with the satellite at around 3:45 p.m.
According to a military official, the first-stage propellant is the most important part of a rocket given that it generates the largest propulsive force, adding that the South's space rocket has a thrust that is one-and-a-half times stronger than North Korea’s solid-fuel engines.
The official was also quick to stress that the South’s rocket, though it has the same basic technologies as an intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM), has a different purpose. The official said the latest rocket was designed as a space rocket and its purpose will not be changed.
Solid-fuel launch vehicles are less complex and more cost-effective to launch than liquid-fuel rockets.
The ministry said a full-launch will occur upon completion of developments to bolster the military’s satellite-based surveillance system. The latest launch is part of Seoul’s plan to deploy five recon orbiters by 2025 to keep tabs on North Korea amid its increased nuclear and missile threats.