KPLO (Falcon 9)
4 August 2022
Space Launch Complex 40
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) to a ballistic lunar transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 7:08 p.m. on 4 August 2022. After stage separation, the first stage landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched Arabsat-6A, STP- 2, COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2, and two Starlink missions.

This was the second launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on 4 August 2022. The first being a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launching the SBIRS GEO 6 mission.

Predawn view of SLC-40 with KPLO on the pad.
Reporters from the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the national broadcaster of South Korea, covering the launch live.
The KBS reporters with the rocket in the background.

An artist's impression of KPLO flying over Shackleton Crater on the Moon with the NASA-supplied ShadowCam instrument in operation. The ShadowCam will acquire images of shadowed regions of the moon using a high-resolution camera, telescope, and highly sensitive sensors. IMAGE: NASA

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) is South Korea's first lunar mission. It is developed and managed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and launched on 4 August 2022, to orbit the Moon for 1 year carrying 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.

Spacecraft and Subsystems
The spacecraft has a cubic shape with two solar panel wings and a parabolic antenna mounted on a boom. The total mass is 550 kg. Communications are via S-band (telemetry and command) and X-band (payload data downlink). Power (760 W at 28 V) is provided through the solar panel arrays and rechargeable batteries. A monopropulsion system is used, with four 30N orbital maneuver thrusters and four 5N attitude control thrusters. KPLO is equipped with five science instruments and a Disruption Tolerant Network experiment. The five experiments are a Lunar Terrain Imager (LUTI), a Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera (PolCam), a Magnetometer (KMAG), a Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (KGRS), and a high-sensitivity camera developed by NASA (ShadowCam). Total scientific payload mass is about 40 kg.

Mission Profile
KPLO launched on 4 August 2022 at 23:08 UT from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 booster into a 300 km Earth orbit, followed by a translunar injection burn and a lunar transfer phase, bringing it to lunar orbit on 16 December 2022. After capture into an elliptical lunar orbit, it will circularize to a 100 km nominal polar orbit (+-30 km), from which it will conduct science operations for approximately one year. If the mission has an extended phase, it will descend to a 70 km orbit or lower.

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