South Korea's first lunar orbiter launched by SpaceX

Fri, 05 Aug 2022 00:58:10 GMT
Space Daily

Seoul (AFP) Aug 5, 2022 South Korea's first lunar orbiter successfully launched on a year-long...

South Korea's first lunar orbiter successfully launched on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, Seoul said Friday, with the payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space.

Danuri - a portmanteau of the Korean words for "Moon" and "Enjoy" - was on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX. It aims to reach the Moon by mid-December.

"South Korea's first lunar orbiter 'Danuri' left for space at 8:08 am on August 5, 2022," Seoul's science ministry said in a tweet, sharing a video of the rocket blasting off trailing a huge column of smoke and flames.

Danuri "Successfully entered orbit towards the moon", Seoul's vice science minister Oh Tae-seok told reporters later Friday, saying that researchers were already communicating with Danuri through NASA's deep-space antenna in Canberra, Australia.

Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive camera provided by NASA, to conduct research, including investigating the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which, according to South Korea's science ministry, is a world first.

South Korean scientists say Danuri - which took seven years to build - will pave the way for the nation's more ambitious goal of landing on the Moon in the next decade.

"South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the Moon," an official at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told AFP. "We hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri is set to find out."

Danuri was launched by a private company - SpaceX - but South Korea recently became one of a handful of countries to successfully launch a one-tonne payload using their own rockets.

That launch - coupled with Danuri's launch Friday - helps bring South Korea ever closer to achieving its space ambitions.