Falcon 9 Launches South Korea’s First Mission to the Moon

Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (Danuri) (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched South Korea’s first mission to the moon on Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), a.k.a., Danuri, is equipped with five instruments from South Korea and a camera from the United States that are designed to search for water ice, aluminum, helium-3, silicon and uranium on the lunar surface. The spacecraft will produce a topographical map of the moon to assist future lunar landings.

Danuri was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The spacecraft has a launch mass of 678 kg (1,495 lb).

NASA’s ShadowCam will search for evidence of water ice in permanently shadowed regions of the moon. The instrument is 800 times more sensitive than the camera used on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists at Arizona and Malin Space Science Systems developed ShadowCam.

Danuri’s other five instruments include:

  • Lunar Terrain Imager
  • Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera
  • KPLO Magnetometer
  • KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment.

Danuri will spend four months gradually circling out from Earth orbit and into a trajectory bound for the moon. The NASA CAPSTONE mission launched in June is using a similar method, which makes it easier for small spacecraft to make lunar orbit insertion burns.