SpaceX selected to assist 2020 South Korean lunar orbiter voyage

Posted on : 2017-12-30 12:47 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The Falcon 9 rocket will carry the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter on the exploration effort
An illustration of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO)
An illustration of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO)

A South Korean orbiter to be launched toward the moon in 2020 will be carried on a rocket by the private US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX. “The US company SpaceX has been selected to carry out the scheduled launch of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) in 2020, and a launch contract was signed on Dec. 15,” the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) announced on Dec. 18.

 scheduled to be launched on a voyage to the moon in 2020. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)
scheduled to be launched on a voyage to the moon in 2020. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

SpaceX and India’s Antrix took part in the overseas bidding to carry out the launch, with KARI selecting SpaceX as a priority negotiation candidate. The final launch contract is determined through negotiations. SpaceX entered the bidding with its Falcon 9 rocket, a launch vehicle weighing 549 tons and measuring 70 meters in length and 3.7 meters in external diameter with a two-stage liquid-propelled engine that is capable of carrying 22.8 tons into low earth orbit, 8.3 tons into geostationary transfer orbit, and 4 tons into Mars transfer orbit. South Korea’s lunar orbiter weighs approximate 550 kg.

For the first stage of its lunar exploration effort, KARI plans to cooperate internationally with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on development and operation of the KPLO and establish the necessary core technology and an independent base for lunar exploration. The KPLO is to carry a payload of six items, including a domestically developed high-resolution camera, wide-angle polarimetric camera, lunar gamma ray spectrometer, lunar magnetic field scanner, and space internet, along with a shadow camera developed by NASA.

“The KPLO will enter lunar orbit through an independent propulsion system after launch, transmitting high-resolution video and observational data back to earth while in polar orbit around the moon,” KARI explained.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

Detailed design is currently under way for the KPLO after completion of a preliminary system design examination in September. Its launch is to take place in 2020 following integrated electrical function testing, structural model testing, and overall flight model assembly and testing.

KARI plans to use the technology acquired through the first-stage lunar orbiter to attempt a second stage of lunar exploration, in which a lunar orbiter and lander are to be launched with a South Korean-developed launch vehicle. Research is under way to acquire the necessary guidance, navigation, and control technology, as well as propulsion system and landing device technology needed for lunar landing.

By Lee Keun-young, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

Caption: An illustration of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), scheduled to be launched on a voyage to the moon in 2020. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

Caption 2: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

Caption 3: An illustration of the KPLO’s planned trajectory (provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

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