SpaceX simply launched South Korea’s first mission to the Moon

South Korea is headed to the Moon, having efficiently launched its first lunar mission on Thursday. Loaded aboard SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rocket, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) started its 4 and a half month-long journey to the Moon at 7:08 p.m. EDT, taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The KPLO was developed via a collaboration between NASA and the Korea Aerospace Analysis Institute — South Korea’s house company. Its launch is a major mission not just for South Korea, but in addition for SpaceX. Whereas Elon Musk’s house firm has launched quite a few rockets over a few years, they usually do not purpose for the Moon. SpaceX beforehand used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch Israeli lunar lander Beresheet in 2019, nevertheless the mission in the end failed with the lander crashing on the Moon’s floor.

Thursday’s KPLO launch was a promising begin, however we’ll have to attend till mid-December to search out out if the mission is successful. Reasonably than travelling on to the Moon, the KPLO — also called “Danuri” — will use ballistic lunar switch (BLT) in an effort to attain its vacation spot. This system makes use of the Solar, Moon, and Earth’s gravitational pulls to position the orbiter into the Moon’s path, permitting it to get caught in lunar orbit. This implies the Danuri will use a lot much less gasoline, however may also take an extended time to get to the Moon.

Ought to it efficiently attain the Moon, the Danuri’s mission is to develop applied sciences for lunar exploration, conduct scientific investigation similar to surveying the floor atmosphere, and show and validate present house applied sciences. It is going to orbit the Moon at 100 km (62 mi) for one 12 months, then descend to 70 km (44 mi) or decrease if the mission is prolonged.

The orbiter is carrying a number of scientific devices to allow it to conduct its mission, together with a magnetometer for measuring magnetic fields and a gamma-ray spectrometer for measuring gamma radiation. It additionally has a lunar terrain imager, a wide-angle polarimetric digital camera, and NASA’s high-sensitivity digital camera ShadowCam, all of that are tasked with amassing photographs of various areas of the Moon.

Apparently, the Danuri has a delay/disruption tolerant networking (DTN) experiment onboard as nicely, intending to check its capabilities for transferring knowledge via house. Just like an area web, DTN know-how has already efficiently been utilized by the Worldwide House Station, however this would be the first time it has been examined past the Earth’s orbit.

With Danuri’s launch, South Korea has joined the brief record of nations who’ve tried to achieve the Moon, together with the U.S., Russia, and China.