The orbiter, named Danuri – 'enjoy the Moon' in Korean – was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a SpaceX rocket (pictured above in another launch). It will enter the Moon’s orbit in December.

Korea’s vice science minister Oh Tae-seog said that initial analysis suggested that Danuri was “operating normally” after the launch.

The 678kg orbiter was created by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), and has six payloads including Korean-made equipment.

One piece of equipment will investigate the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites for future missions, while another will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, and will be an early foray into a wireless internet environment that can link satellites or exploration spacecraft. 

“This is a very significant milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” said KARI president Lee Sang-ryool ahead of the launch.

If it succeeds, South Korea will...