A live broadcast of the launch Friday morning in South Korea showed the “Danuri” orbiter — meaning “enjoy the moon” — successfully separating from the Falcon 9 rocket.
Developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the 678 kg (about 1,500 lb) craft has six payloads, including Korean equipment.
It is expected to enter lunar orbit in December before embarking on a year-long observation mission where it will search for potential landing sites for future missions, conduct scientific research on the lunar environment and test space internet technology, the South’s Ministry of Science and ICT said. Korea. a statement.
If successful, South Korea will become the seventh lunar explorer in the world and the fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.
Friday’s launch comes as South Korea accelerates its growing space program and seeks to send a probe to the moon by 2030.
Space launches have long been a sensitive issue on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea faces international sanctions over its nuclear ballistic missile program.
In March, North Korea asked to expand its missile 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 a spacecraft launch.
South Korea says its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes and any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is for its defense.