Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst.

While the political fallout from this morning's North Korean satellite launch develops, one matter has been resolved: North Korea has now beaten South Korea in a little-known and very localised regional space race.

South Korea has been trying to launch its own satellite from its own territory for years. It suffered failed launches in 2009 and 2010. Most recently, a launch attempt in November was aborted just minutes before liftoff due to a malfunction.

North Korea made its first attempt to orbit a satellite in 1998, as a part of a controversial launch that flew directly across the main Japanese island of Honshu. A subsequent launch attempt in 2009 also failed. North Korea staged a long-range missile test in 2006 that used a similar rocket, but this is generally not believed to have been an attempted satellite launch. The most recent North Korean satellite launch failure occurred in April this year.

The success of the North Korean launch has caused security concerns in South Korea but it will also rub salt in the wounds of South Korea's embattled space engineers. South Korea is not expected to make another launch attempt until 2013. A failure of the next South Korean launch attempt would lead many to question the future of South Korea's poorly performing satellite launch program.