‘Danuri’: South Korea launches first lunar orbiter as space program progresses

A live broadcast of Friday morning’s launch in South Korea showed the ‘Danuri’ – meaning ‘enjoy the moon’ – orbiter successfully separating of the Falcon 9 rocket.

Developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the 678-kilogram (about 1,500-pound) craft has six payloads, including Korean-made equipment.

It is expected to enter orbit of the Moon in December before beginning a year-long observation mission where it will search for possible landing sites for future missions, conduct scientific research on the lunar environment and test space internet technology, said the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT. A declaration.

If successful, South Korea would become the seventh lunar explorer in the world, and the fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying South Korea's first lunar orbiter.

Friday’s launch comes as South Korea ramps up its burgeoning space program and seeks to send a probe to the Moon by 2030.

In June, the country successfully launched satellites into orbit with its own Nouri Rocket in an important step for its space program.

Space launches have long been a hot topic on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea faces international sanctions over its nuclear-armed ballistic missile program.

In March, North Korea called for expanding its space rocket launch site to advance its space ambitions, after South Korea and the United States accused it of testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile under the guise of launch a space vehicle.

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