SpaceX launches South Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter

SpaceX today successfully launched South Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter, also called the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

The first stage completed its sixth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The fairings completed their fourth flight.

Danuri is now on its way to the Moon, with a planned arrival in lunar orbit on December 16, 2022. It carries six instruments, one of which was developed by NASA. The spacecraft, while designed to study the Moon, is primarily a technology test mission laying the groundwork for more sophisticated interplanetary South Korean missions. More information about the mission can be found here.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

34 SpaceX
28 China
10 Russia
6 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 49 to 28 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 49 to 45. With this launch American private enterprise has now surpassed the entire launch total for all of 2021, and has the most launches for the U.S. since 1967, when it completed successfully 57 launches.

South Korea ships its first lunar orbiter to U.S. for August launch

The new colonial movement: South Korea today packed and shipped its first lunar orbiter, dubbed Danuri, to the United States for an August 3, 2022 launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

According to the Ministry of Science and ICT, Danuri was sent from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, to Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, in a specially designed container. The orbiter will be flown to Orlando International Airport and arrive at the Floridian space center Thursday. It will later undergo maintenance, assembly and other pre-launch preparations for about a month before launch.

If all goes right, Danuri will orbit the Moon for a year, both testing its own technology as well as observing the lunar surface.