In the country's second major space setback in less than a year, a South Korean rocket carrying a climate observation satellite apparently exploded 137 seconds into its flight early yesterday.
The two-stage Naro rocket operated normally during and after lift-off, said Ahn Byong-man, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology. But communications were lost after it had climbed to about 43 miles.
"We believe the Naro rocket is likely to have exploded," Mr Ahn told reporters. "We are sorry for failing to live up to people's expectations." He said South Korean and Russian experts were trying to find the cause of the mishap.
The first stage of the rocket was designed and built by Russia and the second by South Korea. The debris from the rocket is believed to have fallen into the sea 292 miles south of the country's space centre on Oenaro Island.