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Korea's 1st lunar orbiter Danuri launches successfully

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The Danuri lunar orbiter, carried by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Aug. 5 (KST). Joint Press Corps
The Danuri lunar orbiter, carried by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Aug. 5 (KST). Joint Press Corps

Danuri expected to enter lunar orbit in mid-December

By Baek Byung-yeul, Joint Press Corps

Danuri, Korea's domestically-developed lunar orbiter, began its journey Friday to reach lunar orbit as it was successfully launched into space, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The ministry said the lunar orbiter, carried by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 8:08 a.m., Friday (KST) and confirmed it successfully entered Earth-moon transfer orbit as of 2 p.m.



As the launch process went off without a hitch, the Danuri will cruise through space for about four-and-a-half months before settling into lunar orbit in mid-December. It will then remain about 100 kilometers above the moon and conduct scientific missions for almost a year from January 2023, the science ministry said.

If the orbiter succeeds in carrying out its operations, Korea will become the seventh nation to undertake a lunar exploration.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Danuri lunar orbiter, is launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Aug. 5 (KST). Joint Press Corps
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Danuri lunar orbiter, is launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Aug. 5 (KST). Joint Press Corps

"The Danuri was disconnected from SpaceX's Falcon 9 projectile at an altitude of about 703 kilometers at around 8:48 a.m. and made its first communication with the ground station at about 9:40 a.m., about 92 minutes after launch," the ministry said.

"The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) analyzed the information given from SpaceX and confirmed that the Danuri separated as expected from the projectile and entered the target orbit," the ministry added.

Revealing future plans for the Danuri, the science ministry said the lunar orbiter "will move toward the point where the sun and the Earth's gravity balance in order to minimize fuel consumption, and then change its direction around Sept. 2."

Researchers at Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Daejeon celebrate the successful launch of the Danuri lunar orbiter, Friday. Courtesy of KARI
Researchers at Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Daejeon celebrate the successful launch of the Danuri lunar orbiter, Friday. Courtesy of KARI

Under its mid- to long-term space development plan, Korea began developing the lunar orbiter in 2016. It is equipped with six kinds of observation and analysis equipment and, excluding a ShadowCam device offered from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the other parts were developed by Korean research institutes and universities.

After the Danuri successfully made contact with the ground station, Science and ICT Minister Lee Jong-ho said the lunar orbiter is the first step in Korea making history in space exploration.

"The Danuri, which has emerged from the Earth's full gravity and is heading to the moon, will be remembered as the first step in Korea's space exploration history. Thank you very much to the 59 government-run research institutions, universities and private companies that have developed the Danuri over a long period," Lee said.

The minister added, "The Danuri has a lot of work to do in being placed in lunar orbit and carrying out a one-year mission," adding that the government will provide active support to ensure the mission's success.

Members of the public at Seoul Station watch TV news showing the successful launch of the Danuri lunar orbiter, Friday. Yonhap
Members of the public at Seoul Station watch TV news showing the successful launch of the Danuri lunar orbiter, Friday. Yonhap

President Yoon Suk-yeol celebrated the Danuri's successful launch and wished that it will succeed in reaching lunar orbit.

"Korea's Danuri has successfully embarked on a 130-day journey to explore the moon," Yoon wrote on his Facebook after the launch.

The president has placed high expectations on the Danuri, hoping it would become a stepping stone for the country's space development plans.

He has said the Danuri will mark the first step for the nation to join the space economy, which refers to the economy beyond our planet, including exploring deep space, extracting resources that are rare on Earth and developing technologies needed for space exploration.

"The Danuri is a pioneer of the country that will advance the era of the space economy and make the country a natural resources powerhouse," the president added.


Baek Byung-yeul baekby@koreatimes.co.kr


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