South Korea said the satellite it attempted to put into orbit yesterday in its first space rocket launch is assumed to have burned up in the atmosphere after falling back to earth.

However, the 220-pound satellite launch failed, dampening hopes of South Korea entering the Asian space race.

The two-stage KSLV-I rocket was supposed to launch into orbit carrying a South Korean-made satellite that was to study the oceans and Earth's atmosphere.

In 2001, South Korea agreed to an international agreement that limits the full range of all ballistic missile launches, but a loophole may provide a method for the country to easily transition to a ballistic missile launch.