SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea has launched a domestically manufactured lunar orbiter that took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a SpaceX rocket this week.
A live broadcast of the launch, the country's first moon mission, showed the orbiter, "Danuri" or "Enjoy the Moon" successfully separating from the Falcon 9 rocket.
The craft, weighing some 1,500 pounds and developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, carried six payloads, including Korean-made equipment.
In a statement, South Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT said the orbiter is expected to enter the moon's orbit in December, when it will begin an observation mission to search for possible landing sites for future missions, conduct scientific research of the lunar environment, and test space internet technology over a one year period.
South Korea will become the world's seventh country to explore the moon, and the fourth in Asia behind China, Japan and India.
South Korea aims to accelerate its advancing space program and send a probe to the moon by 2030. In June, it successfully launched satellites into orbit with its locally-made Nuri rocket.
Amidst international sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear-armed ballistic missile program, space launches have been a sensitive issue on the Korean peninsula.
South Korea stressed that any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is for its defense, adding that its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes.