South Korea braced Thursday for its third attempt to send a satellite into orbit and lay down a national marker in the high-cost world of commercial space technology and exploration.

After two previous failures in 2009 and 2010, the 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-I) was scheduled to blast off some time after 4:00pm (0700 GMT) Thursday from the Naro Space Center on the south coast.

Success will mean a huge boost for South Korea, which is desperate to get its commercial launch programme up and running, and join an elite space club that includes Asian powers China, Japan and India.