South Korea’s premier deep-space assignment, the (KPLO) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, launched on Aug. 4, riding a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This mission laid the groundwork for future, ambitious lunar mission programs.
Managing this project, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said that KPLO, also called Danuri, will be the initial step for ensuring and validating [South Korea’s] space exploration capabilities.
If all goes to plan, this will be the first initiative expected to result in their first robotic lunar landing by 2030, making it an important achievement for South Korea. “Lunar exploration will advance Korean space technologies, raise the country’s worth, and foster national pride,” stated KARI.
At 7:08 pm. EDT today, Falcon 9 blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida (2308 GMT). 2.5 minutes afterward its launch, the two rocket phases split separately and parted ways. 9 minutes after take-off, the primary stage sloped for a precise landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions.” Per a mission statement from SpaceX, this was the veteran booster’s sixth touchdown.
KPLO was carried into the atmosphere by its second stage. The spacecraft was eventually deployed into a ballistic lunar transfer orbit approximately 40 minutes after takeoff. KPLO has much to do. It will be a long, looping, fuel-efficient route to the moon before finally streamlining its way into the lunar orbit by mid-December. This orbit will be circular in nature and only 60 miles (approx. 100 km) above the moon’s surface.
KPLO’s lunar landing will occur approximately one month after the arrival of NASA’s small-size CAPSTONE probe that was launched in June and traveled a similar route to Earth’s nearest neighbor.
A Variety of Science Work
KPLO’s US$180million mission to the moon is focused primarily on demonstrating the technology, but Danuri will do valuable scientific work from its orbital perch.
Six science instruments are to be carried on the spacecraft, and five are developed at home, and NASA provides one. The spacecraft weighs 1,495 pounds (678 kilograms). This gear will collect various data over the mission period that is expected to last a year.
For example, Danuri, will house a magnetometer that could help scientists understand the moon’s remnant magnetic field, specifically, patches where this field indicates unusually strong readings.
KARI officials stated that Danuri’s imagery would assist mission planners in mapping good locations for South Korea’s future moon landing mission. The shadow came, which is based on the LROC system of camera aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is more sensitive, and will scour for water ice within lunar cavities that appear permanently shadowed.
These craters are believed to contain plenty of water-ice. However, the extent and accessibility of this key resource are not yet known.
NASA’s collaboration with KPLO goes beyond ShadowCam. The American space agency also selected nine NASA researchers to participate in this mission.
“Amazingly, the Aerospace Research Institute of Korea’s lunar missions have NASA as a partner – we’re excited about the new data and opportunities that will arise out of KPLO’s mission, as well as future joint KARI–NASA initiatives,” Sang-Ryol Lee, KPLO’s project manager, mentioned in a statement, shortly after the names of the nine scientists were announced.
This KARI-NASA collaboration may prove to be extensive. NASA’s Artemis program aims to make a long-lasting, sustainable human presence on the moon by 2030 and is looking for data on lunar resources. ShadowCam and other Danuri instruments may be able to provide this data.
South Korea is also a part of the Artemis Accords, a given set of principles designed to promote accountable exploration of the Moon. In May 2021, South Korea signed the Accords, becoming the 10th country to do so. Eleven countries have since followed South Korea.