South Korea staged a much-awaited launch of a two-stage Naro rocket from its space centre on Oenaro Island, around 290 miles south of Seoul, but may have failed to deliver its payload in the designated orbit. The 100-kilogram satellite was intended to monitor oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the atmosphere.
The rocket was launched from the Naro Space Centre, 485 kilometres (300 miles) south of the capital Seoul.
"We cannot find the satellite in its designated orbit," South Korean science minister Ahn Byung-man said at a press conference in Seoul. He said the launch attempt was a "partial flop" and that no explanation was available so far.
Earlier, Russia's Khrunichev space centre, the company which constructed the carrier rocket, had claimed that the satellite was already in orbit.
If the satellite launch was successful, Seoul would have become one of 10 "space club" countries with the capability to launch rockets into space.
South Korea has already launched 11 satellites since 1992, using foreign carrier rockets and launch sites.
Last reports from the launch site suggest that the satellite failed to detach from the rocket at the appointed time. "All aspects of the launch were normal, but the satellite exceeded its planned orbit and reached an altitude of 223 miles," said Ahn Byong-man, the science minister.
The satellite was meant to separate at around 187 miles. Engineers said they were trying to track the satellite.
The two-stage Naro-1 or South Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle (KSLV-1), was meant to be South Korea's first space launch from its own territory. It was constructed by Khrunichev for £244 million.
The KSLV-1 was meant to launch earlier on 19August 2009, when a glitch in the automatic launch software sequence aborted the take-off at 7 minutes and 56 seconds. The software was created by Russian experts.
Technical glitches had already delayed launch on seven earlier occasions.
A successful launch would have seen South Korea becoming a member of 10 "space club" countries with the capability to launch rockets into space.