South Korea’s first lunar orbiter in its history of space development, also known as ‘Danuri (KPLO),’ is set to blast off at 8:08 a.m. on Friday (7:08 p.m. on Thursday local time).
According to the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT on Thursday, a ‘Falcon 9’ rocket carrying the Danuri stood upright at the launch site, the U.S. Space Force base in Florida, the U.S. at around 11:15 a.m. on the day. The ‘Falcon 9’ is the launch vehicle of U.S. private space company SpaceX.
After the successful lift-off of the Falcon 9, Danuri will be separated from the rocket 40 minutes after the launch. After the following 20 minutes, it will start its first communications through the antenna located in Canberra, Australia. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute will determine whether the Danuri successfully enters the ‘lunar transfer trajectory’ between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. on Friday, which is its target path to the moon by analyzing the information on rocket separation.
The Danuri is a 678-kilogram spacecraft of 3.18-meter length, 6.3-meter width, and 2.67-meter height. The rocket, which has been developed to test and secure technologies for space exploration, carries five types of payload made in Korea, including observation equipment and space internet developed by the Korean research institutes and universities, and ‘ShadowCam,’ a camera that films polar regions, provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The nation’s first lunar orbiter is set to reach lunar orbit in mid-December after 135 days of space travel that stretches over 5,656,000 kilometers. Moreover, it will cruise above the moon’s surface at an altitude of 100 kilometers on Dec. 31. After the period of preparation, the rocket will serve the world-first science missions, including mapping the texture of the entire lunar surface using polarized light and testing space internet technologies. One of the Danuri’s key missions is to explore candidate landing areas for Korean lunar probes set for launch in 2030.