The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) dubbed Danuri has embarked on maiden five-month journey to the moon on a successful liftoff by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in the United States Friday morning, adding another landmark to South Korea`s fledgling space program.
A livestream of SpaceX’s YouTube channel showed Danuri soaring toward space on the rocket at 8:08 a.m. Friday (Korean time).
The 678-kilogram Danuri was separated from the projectile about 40 minutes after the launch and made its first communication with a ground station, or the Deep Space Network antenna of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), at around 9:40 am, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT of Seoul.
The ministry around 2 p.m. Friday confirmed Danuri has safely entered the trajectory for its journey, based on the communication with a ground station in Australia.
It must endure a challenging navigation process before entering the moon’s orbit in December to start a year-long observation mission.
A mission complete would make South Korea the world`s seventh lunar explorer behind Russia, U.S., Japan, Europe, China and India.
After the separation from the rocket, Danuri is scheduled to travel on a preprogrammed fuel-efficient ballistic lunar transfer (BLT) trajectory towards the moon instead of going directly to the moon, which is about 380,000 kilometers away from Earth.
Danuri will enter orbit around the moon on Dec. 16, and then approach the moon through speed reduction maneuvers for about a fortnight before entering the target orbit, 100 km above the moon on Dec. 31.
Its success would add another momentum to Korea`s independent space program after its launch of first homegrown space rocket Nuri that delivered a satellite of more than 1 ton into orbit last month. South Korea hopes to use own rocket launcher to fly a lunar landing module to the moon in 2031.
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]