SEOUL—South Korea launched its first lunar orbiter on Friday in a bid to bolster its space program to land a probe on the moon by 2030.
The South Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, which means “Enjoying the Moon,” launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the U.S. Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:08 am (Thursday 23:08 GMT) on Friday. was launched at the ministry said.
The 678 kg (1,495 lb) Danuri separated from the projectile about 40 minutes after launch and began communicating with the ground station at approximately 9:40 am.
In a briefing, Vice Minister of Science Oh Tae-seok said, “Analysis of the information received confirms…Danuri was operating normally,” announcing that the orbiter had established orbit for the Moon.
The ministry said it will enter lunar orbit in December before embarking on a year-long observational mission that will include searching for a landing site and testing space internet technology.
If successful, South Korea will become the seventh lunar probe in the world and the fourth in Asia after China, Japan and India.
The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed due to maintenance issues on the SpaceX rocket.
South Korea is accelerating its space program with the goal of sending a probe to the moon by 2030. We are also participating in the Artemis Project, which aims to return to the Moon by 2024.
South Korea conducted a second test launch of its home-grown Nuri rocket in July, and in March reported the successful launch of its first solid-fueled space launch vehicle as part of efforts to launch a spy satellite.
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 launched a space rocket to advance his space ambitions after accusing South Korea and the United States of testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile under the guise of a spacecraft launch. He called for an expansion of the launch site.
South Korea has said its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes, and its military use of technology such as spy satellites is for defense.
Written by Shin Hyun-hee and Choi Soo-hyang