SEOUL: South Korea’s first lunar orbiter successfully launched on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, Seoul said on Friday, with the payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space.

Danuri — a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Moon” and “enjoy” — was on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. It aims to reach the Moon by mid-December.

Danuri “successfully entered orbit towards the moon”, Seoul’s vice science minister Oh Tae-seok told reporters later on Friday, saying that researchers were already communicating with Danuri through Nasa’s deep-space antenna in Canberra, Australia.

“Analysis of the received satellite information confirmed that Danuri’s solar panel was properly unfolded to start power generation,” he said, adding everything appeared to be going smoothly.

Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive camera provided by Nasa, to conduct research, including investigating the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which, according to South Korea’s science ministry, is a world first.

Danuri will also try to develop a wireless internet environment to link satellites or exploration spacecraft, Seoul has said.

The lunar orbiter will stream K-pop sensation BTS song “Dynamite” to test this wireless network.

Scientists also hope Danuri will find hidden sources of water and ice in areas of the Moon, including the permanently dark and cold regions near the poles.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022

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