August 05, 2022 11:13
Korea's first lunar orbiter Danuri lifted off in Florida on Friday morning. If it succeeds in entering lunar orbit in December, Korea will become the seventh country in the world to achieve such a feat after the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan, China and India.
Although Danuri was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX company, the development process from design to onboard equipment was the work of Korean researchers.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said the explorer was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida at 8:08 a.m. Korean time on Friday.
After a four-month journey, it is to enter lunar orbit in mid-December 100 km above the moon to explore its dark side, search for a potential landing site for a space shuttle in 2030 and conduct internet tests in space. The mission lasts one year.
Success or failure will be determined only when Danuri enters lunar orbit and equipment like high-resolution cameras operates normally.
"Our long journey starts now," said Kim Dae-kwan, who headed development at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
The key is the success of the ballistic lunar transfer or slingshot trajectory to the moon. The usual route to the moon is to circle the Earth a few times, which takes three days to a month. But the BLT trajectory takes much longer by using the gravity of the sun, moon, and earth.
So far only the U.S. and Japan have tried it. After launch, Danuri will move 1.56 million km away from Earth and then return in the same direction before entering lunar orbit.
Whether Danuri is headed on the right path will be determined five to six hours after launch. It has already sent its first communication signal to ground control about 90 minutes after liftoff.
The orbiter will shift trajectory nine times over the next four months and is expected to reach lunar orbit by Dec. 16.
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