South Korea’s 1st moon mission to launch August 4 … Watch here

South Korea’s 1st moon mission

South Korea is about to launch its first mission to the moon. We in the west call it the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or KPLO. The South Korean Ministry of Science often refers to the mission as Danuri, meaning moon enjoy. The mission will launch at 7:08 p.m. ET (23:08 UTC) on Thursday (August 4, 2022) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 will hoist the Korean mission into space.

And the launch will be livestreamed. Use the embedded video player above to watch, or watch on YouTube.

It’ll orbit the moon for 1 year

The spacecraft – which has been developed and managed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) – will go first into a 200-mile (300-km) Earth orbit. Afterwards, a translunar injection burn will send it on its way to the moon.

The plan is to bring the spacecraft to the moon in mid-December.

Once there, it’ll first go into an elliptical lunar orbit, and then a 60-miles (100-km) polar orbit. From there, the spacecraft will conduct science operations for about a year. NASA noted:

It’ll [carry] an array of South Korean experiments and one U.S.-built instrument. The objectives are to develop indigenous lunar exploration technologies, demonstrate a ‘space internet,’ and conduct scientific investigations of the lunar environment, topography, and resources, as well as identify potential landing sites for future missions …

NASA’s ShadowCam will ride along on the moon mission

NASA is flying its ShadowCam instrument aboard the lunar orbiter. It’ll be one of five instruments aboard Korea’s first moon mission. Investigators at Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems developed ShadowCam. NASA said:

ShadowCam will map the reflectance [brightness] within the permanently shadowed regions to search for evidence of frost or ice deposits. The instrument’s optical camera is based on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera, but is 800 times more sensitive …

ShadowCam will … detect seasonal changes and measure the terrain inside the craters, including the distribution of boulders.

Read more about ShadowCam

SpaceX and South Korea: More to come

Thursday’s launch via a Falcon 9 is expected to be only the beginning of the relationship between South Korea and SpaceX, the world’s busiest launch provider.

Some time in 2023, SpaceX will launch the first of five spy satellites for South Korea. The eavesdropping sats will be used to monitor North Korea’s growing nuclear capability, giving the South Korean military imagery with 30- to 60-centimeter (12- to 24-inches) resolution every two hours. The launch contract was formalized in April 2022 and runs through 2025.

Moon mission: An image of a permanently shadowed lunar crater, side by side with an image of a spacecraft mapping the crater from above.
Artist’s concept of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter mapping permanently shadowed areas of the lunar surface. The KPLO, South Korea’s 1st lunar mission, will launch Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 lift vehicle. Image via KARI.

Bottom line: South Korea will launch its first mission to the moon on August 4, 2022.

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