South Korea’s first space rocket was built domestically, but it failed to reach its intended altitude. It launched its first test launch on Thursday and did not deliver a dummy payload.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s President, observed the launch and still called it an “excellent achievement” that moves the country one step closer to launching a satellite.

Live footage showed the rocket reaching 47 meters (154 feet) in the air, bright yellow flames shooting from its engines after it was launched at Naro Space Center on an island off the country’s southern coast.

Lim Hye-sook (the country’s science minister) said that Nuri’s first stage and second stage separated correctly and that the third stage ejected a 1.5-ton payload of stainless steel/aluminum at 700 km (435 miles) above Earth.

She said that launch data showed that the third stage’s engine failed to ignite after 475 seconds. This was about 50 seconds less than expected and did not provide enough speed for the payload to stabilize in orbit.

Officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (the country’s space agency) said that debris from the payload could have landed in waters south-east of Australia. The institute planned to set up an inspection committee to examine the failures and make adjustments prior to the next rocket test launch.

Launch at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) was delayed an hour due to engineers needing more time to inspect the rocket’s valves. Strong winds and other conditions could also pose problems for a successful launch.

Moon stated in a televised speech that “even though (the launch) did not achieve its objectives perfectly but it was an excellent accomplishment as a first launch,”

“The rockets were separated, the fairings (covering payload), and the dummy satellite all worked seamlessly. He said that all this was possible because of technology completely ours.

South Korea, which has depended on other countries for satellite launches since the 1990s is trying to be the 10th country to launch a satellite with its own technology.

Officials believe such an ability is crucial to the country’s space ambitions. These include plans to send more advanced communications satellites and acquire its own military intelligence satellites. It also hopes to send a probe on the moon by 2030.

Nuri is the first national space launch vehicle made entirely from domestic technology. Five 75-ton class rocket engines are used to power the rocket’s first and second stages. It can carry a 1.5-ton payload 600 to 800 km (372 to 497 mi) above Earth.

Lim, Lim’s minister, stated that although the launch was frustrating, it was meaningful because we confirmed that we had obtained core technology for space launches.

KARI engineers and scientists plan to test Nuri again, including another launch in May 2022 with a dummy satellite, before attempting with a real satellite.

South Korea had launched a space launch vehicle in 2013 from the Naro Spaceport. It was a two-stage rocket mainly built with Russian technology. After years of delays, and repeated failures, the launch was finally accomplished. The rocket, called Naro, was launched at the desired altitude in 2009. However, it failed to launch a satellite into orbit during its first test in 2009. It then exploded shortly afterwards during its second test in 2010.

It was unclear how North Korea would react to Thursday’s launch, after it had been accused of using space launches in the past as a cover for developing long-range missile technology.

The North was pushing for an expansion of its nuclear and missile programs, but it had expressed concern about South Korea’s growing defense spending and attempts to build more powerful conventionally-armed missiles.

Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader, accused South Korea and the U.S. of “destroying stability and balance in the region” with their allied military operations and an “excessive arms buildup in the South” by the U.S. in a speech to Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament last week.

Although Nuri uses liquid propellants, which must be fueled within a short time of launch, South Koreans are planning to develop a solid fuel space launch rocket by 2024. This could be more affordable and be ready for launch sooner. These rockets are ideal for sensitive launches in space, such as those that involve military intelligence satellites.

South Korea’s space ambitions have seen a boost from the Trump and Biden administrations. They took steps to remove decades-old U.S. restrictions on Seoul’s missile development, before finally allowing its ally conventional weapons of unlimited range and weight to be built. The U.S. lifted a limitation on the power of solid-fuel rockets from South Korea for space launch purposes, as well as the so-called missile guidelines.

South Korea does not currently have its own military surveillance satellites. This leaves the country dependent on U.S. spy spacecraft to monitor North Korea. Officials hope to launch domestically-developed, low-orbit military satellites for surveillance in the coming years using South Korea’s solid-fuel rockets.