Carried by a Falcon 9 rocket from the SpaceX group, the Danuri orbiter (a contraction of “Dal“, which means Moon, and “Nuri” which means enjoy) is due to arrive near the Moon in mid-December.
“This is a very important milestone in the history of Korean space exploration“said Lee Sang-ryool, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), in a video released before the launch.
“Danuri is just the start. If we are even more determined and committed to the development of technologies for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, etc. in the near future“, he predicted.
During the mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including an ultra-sensitive camera provided by the American Space Agency (Nasa) which will be used in particular to study the lunar surface in order to identify landing sites for future missions.
Danuri must also test, in a world first according to the South Korean government, a new networked space communications system resistant to disturbances.
The probe will also attempt to set up a wireless Internet environment intended to link satellites or exploration vehicles through space. This wireless connection in space will be tested by streaming the song”Dynamitefrom cult K-pop group BTS.
According to South Korean scientists, Danuri – which took seven years to build and cost some 2 trillion won (1.5 billion euros) – will pave the way for more ambitious goals. South Korea plans to land a probe on the lunar surface by 2030.
“If this mission succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the Moon.“, a KARI official told AFP.
“This is a pivotal moment for South Korea’s space development program, and we hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri will discover.“, he added.
In June, South Korea successfully launched the first domestically-designed space rocket, which put several satellites into orbit, after a failure in October.