INDONESIA-Workers snap the miniature rocket’s wings into place as Indonesia’s little-known space agency readies its latest launch on barren scrubland in East Java.

With a 3,2,1 blast off, the two-metre-long projectile belches a trail of fire and then soars a few hundred metres before crashing in a heap -- earning a thumbs up from scientists who declared the test a success.

It’s a very long way from a Mission Control in Houston, but the Southeast Asian archipelago’s answer to NASA has big hopes and is now planning to build its first spaceport on a tropical island off the coast of easternmost Papua.

“We’ve got a dream to put our own satellite-launching rocket 200 or 300 kilometres into space within five years,” said Lilis Mariani, head of the Rocket Technology Centre at the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, known as Lapan.

Some experts question how realistic that timeline is, and officials acknowledge much will depend on whether Jakarta stumps up the necessary funds.

There is resurgent international interest in space travel and colonisation, with NASA planning to send two astronauts to the moon by 2024, some 55 years after their last mission there. The Trump administration has pledged to increase funding for the project and is also making plans for travel to Mars.

SpaceX, a private US firm launched by Tesla chief Elon Musk, has said its first crewed flight will launch in the first half of this year, while Virgin Galactic plans a series of missions in the next three years.

A giant leap -Indonesia’s space agency is a relative minnow, dwarfed in Asia by counterparts in Japan, China and India.

Lapan has had some success with developing research satellite technology, but it wants to make its mark in space flight by sending a homegrown rocket into orbit.

Back at the launch site on East Java, Lapan’s scientists were gauging the tiny test rocket’s speed, movement and other specifications.