The Ministry of Science and ICT ("MSIT,"; Minister Lee Jong-Ho) and the Korea Aerospace Research Agency ("KARI,"; President Lee Sang-Yul) announced that Danuri, Korea's first lunar orbiter, was successfully placed in lunar orbit at 6:00 p.m. December 27.
After carrying out the third and last lunar orbit insertion (LOI) maneuver* on December 26, Danuri successfully reached its target orbit** and is revolving around the moon every two hours at a speed of 1.62km/s. Every machine and devices on Danuri, also known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), are working fine, including the onboard computer and flight-control sensors. It has 93 kg of fuel left from its full tank of 260 kg, enough to serve its yearlong mission throughout 2023.
* Lunar orbit insertion (LOI) maneuver: An adjustment process for a space vehicle (Danuri) to lower its speed using thrusters and commit itself to the gravity of the Moon
** The target orbit of Danuri's mission is 100km ± 30km above the moon. As of December 27, Danuri was transferred to an elliptical orbit with a perilune of 104.1 kilometers (the point at which the spacecraft is closest from the body it is orbiting), and with an apoapsis of 119.9km kilometers (the point at which the spacecraft is farthest from the body it is orbiting).
Danuri successfully entering lunar orbit is meaning as it proved that Korea has secured space exploration capabilities, and can indigenously build a lunar orbiter that can actually reach the moon. This has layed the groundwork for future space exploration and development of a lunar lander.
Next year, Danuri will shift its position so that its payload faces the lunar surface for a yearlong exploration of the surface. Until the end of January 2023, Danuri will be checking the payload functions and correcting errors and distortions. From February 2023, lunar scientific missions (generate polarized images of the lunar surface, take magnetic field and radiation measurements) will be conducted along with testing space internet technology. The images of lunar surface captured by a high-resolution camera, in particular, will be used to support landing site selection for future mission planned for 2032.
First Vice Minister of Science and ICT Oh Tae-Seog said, "Korea made history as the seventh country in the world to explore the moon. In the next 10 years and by 2032, we will keep strengthening the nation's space development capacity through various projects including launching of a lunar lander with a homegrown launch vehicle."
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