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CAPE CANAVERAL, United States/SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying South Korea's first lunar orbiter has lifted off from Cape Canaveral in the United States, opening a new chapter in the country's space program.
A livestream of SpaceX's YouTube channel showed the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter -- also known as Danuri -- soaring toward space after being launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in the U.S. state of Florida at 7:08 p.m. Thursday (U.S. Eastern Time), or 8:08 a.m. Friday (Korean time).
Danuri is scheduled to be released from the rocket around 40 minutes after liftoff at an altitude of 1,656 kilometers and travel on a preprogrammed low-energy, fuel-efficient ballistic lunar transfer (BLT) trajectory toward the moon. The trip to the moon is scheduled to take 4 1/2 months.
The orbiter is expected to make its first communication with the ground station about 1 hour after launch. The South Korean government plans to announce whether Danuri successfully reached its intended BLT trajectory in the afternoon.
The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed for two days due to a maintenance issue with the rocket.
Danuri marks South Korea's first space mission to travel beyond Earth's orbit. Its mission is to measure terrains, magnetic strengths, gamma rays and other traits of the lunar surface using six onboard instruments during its yearlong mission, starting in late December after traveling into lunar orbit for 4 1/2 months. It will also identify potential landing sites for future lunar missions.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been deeply involved in the South Korean mission after it and KARI signed a formal agreement to work together in December of 2016. NASA has shared experience in designing the missions and will provide access to the agency's Deep Space Network antennas around the globe to track the spacecraft.
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