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

Liftoff: South Korea has embarked on its first lunar mission after the country's lunar orbiter was launched into orbit by a SpaceX rocket

Enjoy the moon! South Korea’s first lunar orbiter launched into space by SpaceX rocket as Seoul eyes 2030 landing

  • South Korea today launched its first lunar orbiter on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
  • Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter is nicknamed Danuri, which means “enjoying the moon”.
  • It will enter lunar orbit in December before beginning a year of observation
  • If the mission is successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer

South Korea’s first lunar mission is underway after the country’s lunar orbiter was launched into orbit on a SpaceX rocket.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, which means “enjoying the moon,” was shot into space atop a Falcon 9 booster.

In a historic moment that sets the stage for Seoul’s most ambitious lunar efforts down the road, the orbiter lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral US Space Force Station at 19:08 ET Thursday (00:08 BST Friday).

South Korea ultimately aims to land a probe on the moon by 2030 and joins a number of other countries planning new missions to the lunar surface, including the United States, Russia and China.

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will enter lunar orbit in December before starting a year-long observation mission.

Liftoff: South Korea has embarked on its first lunar mission after the country’s 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 “enjoying the moon,” was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster.

HOW SOUTH KOREA ENTERED THE NEW SPACE RACE

Until just over two months ago, South Korea had relied on other countries to carry its satellites, with the majority of rocket launches carried out by the US, Russia, China, Japan, France and India.

That changed with the successful launch of its three-stage Nuri rocket on June 21.

This delivered a 357-pound working satellite in orbit 435 miles above Earth.

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

It brought the country closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, having been late to the race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US that gave it it prohibited developing a space program.

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

If successful, the nation would become the world’s seventh lunar explorer and the fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.

KPLO’s lunar arrival will come about a month after NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE probe, which launched in late June and is also taking a tortuous path to Earth’s only natural satellite.

South Korea’s 1,495-pound (678 kg) orbiter separated from the SpaceX rocket about 40 minutes after launch and later began communicating with a ground station.

“Analysis of the information received was confirmed… Danuri was operating normally,” Vice Science Minister Oh Tae-seog said at a briefing, announcing that the orbiter had established a trajectory toward the moon .

The ship has six scientific instruments, five of them of its own production and one, called ShadowCam, provided by NASA.

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

Measurements from a magnetometer on the orbiter could also help scientists better understand the moon’s remanent magnetic field.

The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed due to a maintenance issue with the SpaceX rocket.

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

Both developments bring the country closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, having entered the race late due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US that it forbade him to develop a space program.

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter the moon's orbit in December before starting a year-long observation mission.

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter the moon’s orbit in December before starting a year-long observation mission.

The three-stage Nuri rocket, built by the government’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute along with hundreds of local companies, lifted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, 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 asked to expand his space rocket launch site to advance his space ambitions, after South Korea and the United States accused him of testing a new missile intercontinental ballistic missile under the pretext of launching a space vehicle.

South Korea says its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes and that any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is for its defense.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also seen as a historic step for its space program (pictured)

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also seen as a historic step for its space program (pictured)

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