A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or KPLO, lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 4, 2022. JOHN RAOUX AP SEOUL -- South Korea launched its first lunar orbiter on Friday as it doubles down on its space programs, aiming to land a probe on the moon by 2030.
The Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri, meaning enjoy the Moon, was launched on Thursday by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral US Space Force Station at 8: 08 am on Friday 2308 GMT, South Korea's science ministry said.
The 678 kg Danuri separated from the projectile about 40 minutes after launch and began communicating with a ground station around 9: 40 am.
According to analysis of received information, Danuri was normally operating, Vice Science Minister Oh Tae-seog told a briefing that the orbiter had established a trajectory towards the moon.
If it succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh lunar explorer and fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.
The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed because of a maintenance issue with the SpaceX rocket.
South Korea is accelerating its space program with the goal of sending a probe to the moon by 2030. It has joined the Artemis project, which aims to return to the moon by 2024.
In July, South Korea held its second test launch of its domestically produced Nuri rocket, and reported its first successful launch of a solid-fuel space-launch rocket in March as part of efforts to launch spy satellites.
South Korea says that the space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes, and any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is for its defense.