A live broadcast of the launch on Friday morning in South Korea showed that the Danuri orbiter – which means “enjoy the moon” – had successfully separated. from a Falcon 9 rocket.
Designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the 678-kilogram (about 1,500 pounds) craft carries six payloads, including Korean-made equipment.
It is expected to orbit the moon in December before launching a year-long observation mission in which it will search for possible landing sites for future missions, conduct scientific studies of the lunar environment and test space internet technologies, the Ministry of Science and Information said in a statement. technologies of South Korea. statement.
If successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer and fourth in Asia after China, Japan and India.
Friday’s launch comes as South Korea is accelerating its growing space program and aiming to send a probe to the moon by 2030.
Space launches have long been a sensitive issue on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea faces international sanctions over its nuclear-armed ballistic missile program.
In March, North Korea called for an expansion of its space rocket launch pad to advance its space ambitions after South Korea and the US accused it of testing a new ICBM under the guise of launching a spacecraft.
South Korea says its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes and any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is meant to protect it.