South Korea launches first lunar orbiter

SEOUL: South Korea’s first-ever lunar orbiter was launched from the US on Thursday (Aug 4) on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, live video showed, with a payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space.

Danuri – a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Moon” and “enjoy” – was carried 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.

“This is a very significant milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” said Lee Sang-ryool, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, in a video shown prior to the launch.

“Danuri is just the beginning, and if we are more determined and committed to technology development for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, and so on in the near future.”

During the year-long mission, 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 for future missions.

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