Enjoy the moon! South Korea’s first lunar orbiter launched into space by SpaceX rocket

Enjoy the moon! South Korea’s first lunar orbiter is launched into space by a SpaceX rocket as Seoul aims to land in 2030.

  • South Korea launched its first lunar orbiter on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket today.
  • The Korea Pathfinder lunar orbiter has been nicknamed Danuri, meaning “enjoy the moon.”
  • It will enter the Moon’s orbit in December before the start of the year’s observations.
  • If the mission is successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer.

South Koreathe first-ever mission to the moon began after the country’s first lunar orbiter was launched into orbit SpaceX rocket.

The Korea Pathfinder lunar orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, which means “enjoy the moon”, was launched into space on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

In a momentous moment that sets the stage for Seoul’s more ambitious plans for the Moon in the future, the orbiter lifted off from US Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 7:08 pm ET Thursday (00:08 pm BST Friday).

South Korea eventually aims to land a probe on the Moon by 2030 and joins a host of other countries planning new missions to the Moon’s surface, including the US, Russia and China.

The $180 million (£148 million) Korean Lunar Orbiter Pathfinder (KPLO) will orbit the Moon in December before starting a year-long observation mission.

Launch: South Korea has launched its first lunar mission after the country’s first lunar orbiter was launched into orbit by a SpaceX rocket.

The Korea Pathfinder lunar orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, which means

The Korea Pathfinder lunar orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, which means “enjoy the moon”, was launched into space on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

HOW SOUTH KOREA ENTERED A NEW SPACE RACE

Just over two months ago, South Korea relied on other countries to host its satellites, with the US, Russia, China, Japan, France and India carrying out the majority of missile launches.

The situation changed after the successful launch of the three-stage Nuri rocket on 21 June.

It delivered working satellite weighing 357 pounds into orbit 435 miles above Earth.

The rocket also launched a 1.3-ton artificial satellite and four small cube satellites designed by universities for space research.

It brought the country closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, which was late in entering the race because of a Cold War agreement with the US that barred it from developing a space program.

This will include searching for a landing site, testing space-based internet technologies and detecting rare elements on the moon, South Korea’s science ministry said.

If successful, the country will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer and fourth in Asia after China, Japan and India.

KPLO will arrive on the Moon about a month after NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE probe, which was launched in late June and is also on a detour to Earth’s only natural satellite.

The 1,495-pound (678 kg) South Korean orbiter separated from the SpaceX rocket about 40 minutes after launch and then began communicating with the ground station.

“Analysis of the received information confirmed … Danuri worked normally,” Vice Minister of Science Oh Tae Sog said at a briefing, announcing that the orbiter had established a trajectory to the moon.

The spacecraft has six scientific instruments, five of which are domestic and one called the ShadowCam provided by NASA.

It will look for water ice in permanently shadowed lunar craters.

The orbiter’s magnetometer measurements could also help scientists better understand the moon’s remanent magnetic field.

The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed due to maintenance issues on the SpaceX rocket.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also considered a historic step in his space program.

Both developments bring the country closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, which was late in entering the race because of a Cold War agreement with the US that barred it from developing a space program.

Korea's $180 million Pathfinder lunar orbiter (pictured) will orbit the Moon in December ahead of the start of the year-long observation mission.

Korea’s $180 million Pathfinder lunar orbiter (pictured) will orbit the Moon in December ahead of the start of the year-long observation mission.

The three-stage Nuri rocket, built by the Korea Institute of Aerospace Research with hundreds of local companies, launched from the Naro Space Center in Koheung, about 310 miles (500 km) south of Seoul.

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 Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an expansion of the space launch site to advance his space ambitions after South Korea and the US accused him of testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile 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.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit, also considered a historic step in its space program (pictured).

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit, also considered a historic step in its space program (pictured).