South Korea’s first lunar mission is scheduled to start next week, when the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) probe will be launched from Cape Canaveral (Florida) aboard a Falcon rocket 9 from SpaceX.
The launch is initially scheduled for 7:08 p.m. (23:08 GMT) on Thursday, August 4, from the Cape Canaveral space base, on the east coast of Florida (USA).
If the spacecraft travels into space the first week of August, KPLO should reach the chosen orbit in December, the specialized website spaceflight.com reported on Sunday.
he KPLO, weighing about 678 kilos, will orbit the Moon for a year to carry out tests and scientific experiments and take images of the Earth’s surface with a view to a future moon landing and South Korea’s plans for lunar exploration.
NASA will provide technical and communications support to this first lunar mission of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).
One of the instruments on board KPLO is the so-called ShadowCam, made with funding from the US space agency, which will make it possible to take images inside dark craters near the lunar poles, places where previous missions have detected evidence of ice deposits.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute, which has been working on this probe since 2016, has plans for a robotic moon landing in the 2030s and has taken steps to join collaborative agreements with NASA’s Artemis program to send humans to the moon
The KPLO spacecraft, also called Danuri in Korean, has been in Cape Canaveral since July 6 and fuel tests have already been carried out for when it travels by itself around the Earth’s satellite.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will propel the spacecraft on a trajectory that will take it close to the L1 Lagrange point, a gravitationally stable spot nearly a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth’s day side, about four times farther than the moon.
Gravitational forces will naturally pull the spacecraft toward the Moon. Through a series of maneuvers with its thrusters, KPLO will reach a low-altitude circular orbit about 100 kilometers from the lunar surface by December 31.
By February 2023 it will be ready to start its experiments, according to spaceflight.com.