Moon Jae-in, South Korea's President, observed the launch and still called it an "excellent achievement" that moves the country one step closer to a satellite launch program.
Live footage showed the rocket reaching 47 meters (154 feet) in the air, bright yellow flames shooting from its engines after it was launched at Naro Space Center on an island off the country's southern coast.
Lim Hye-sook (the country's science minister) said that Nuri's first stage and second stage separated correctly and that the third stage ejected a 1.5-ton payload of stainless steel/aluminum at 700 km (435 miles) above Earth.
She said that launch data showed that the third stage's engine failed to ignite after 475 seconds. This was about 50 seconds less than expected and did not provide enough speed for the payload to stabilize in orbit.
Officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (the country's space agency) said that debris from the payload could have landed in waters south-east of Australia. The institute planned to set up an inspection committee to examine the failures and make adjustments prior to the next rocket test launch.
Launch at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) was delayed an hour due to engineers needing more time to inspect the rocket's valves. Strong winds and other conditions could also pose problems for a successful launch.
Moon stated in a televised speech that "even though (the launch) did not achieve its objectives perfectly but it was an excellent accomplishment as a first launch."
"The rockets were separated, the fairings (covering payload), and the dummy satellite all worked seamlessly. He said that all this was possible because of technology completely ours.
South Korea, which has depended on other countries for satellite launches since the 1990s is trying to be the 10th country to launch a satellite with its own technology.
Officials believe such an ability is crucial to the country's space ambitions. These include plans to send more advanced communications satellites and acquire its own military intelligence satellites. It also hopes to send a probe on the moon by 2030.