Watch live as SpaceX attempts its first direct launch to the Moon

A Falcon 9 rocket during launch last July.

A Falcon 9 rocket during launch last July.
Photo: SpaceX

South Korea embarks on its first lunar mission, and SpaceX was brought in to help. You can watch the historic launch live here.

Hard to believe, but the upcoming launch marks the first time SpaceX will send a payload directly into ballistic lunar transfer orbit. And as for South Korea, this marks its first mission to the Moon, adding itself (fingers crossed) to a very small list of nations to do so.

payload of the day is the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri, in a mission managed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida at 7:08 p.m. ET. Live coverage will begin 15 minutes before launch, which you can watch on SpaceX or at the feed provided below.

KPLO mission

To be fair, SpaceX has already sent an object to the Moon, namely the Israeli lander Beresheet Moon (which crushed on the lunar surface in 2019), but it was done as part of a routine Falcon 9 rideshare mission to a geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth. Once in space, Beresheet used his own power to gradually increase its altitudefinally entering its lunar orbit (and the failed mission had nothing to do with SpaceX). In addition, private enterprise has previously sent objects deep into the solar systemincluding an Red Tesla Roadsterbut never before has he sent anything directly to our beloved Moon.

It’s fixed change today. SpaceX reports an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions. If the launch needs to be canceled, the company will try again tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. ET.

After stage separation, the first stage will attempt to land on the Just read the instructions droneship, currently stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This particular booster has already made several successful landings. Once in space and approximately 34 minutes into the mission, the second stage will perform a restart, with the engine shutting down when the mission clock hits 35:15. Danuri will deploy and begin its journey to the Moon five minutes later.

Diagram depicting the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO).

Diagram depicting the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO).
Image: KAVI

The 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) probe will enter into a lunar polar orbit in mid-December, where it will operate 60 miles (100 kilometers) above the surface for at least one year. Should the mission be extended, KPLO will drop to an orbit that’s 43 miles (70 km) above the Moon. A post from Teslarati explains why it will take Danuri so long to reach its target orbit:

Instead of launching the satellite as a rideshare payload to Earth orbit, KPLO… will be the only spacecraft aboard the Falcon 9, and the SpaceX rocket will send the orbiter directly on a type of injection trajectory trans-lunar (TLI) known as a ballistic lunar transfer. A BLT is much slower than some alternative TLI trajectories, but it trades speed for exceptional efficiency, making it easier to launch Falcon 9 and ultimately giving the orbiter more useful time around the Moon by requiring less propellant to enter. in orbit.

The main objectives of the mission 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 sites potential landing sites for future missions”. according at NASA. The space agency provided a high-sensitivity camera for the mission, with South Korea developing its other four instruments: a lunar terrain imager, a wide-angle polarimetric camera (dubbed PolCam), a magnetometer and a gamma spectrometer. Together, these five devices weigh no more than 88 pounds (40 kg).

A contingent of NASA-sponsored scientists will assist in the analysis of incoming mission data. Using PolCam, scientists from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado will study lunar pyroclastic deposits, deposits of ash that formed long ago from violent volcanic eruptions. “Such ash deposits may originate from deep within the lunar interior and may contain volatile materials, including water,” according to an emailed statement from SSI. “They therefore have the potential to provide information about the nature of the lunar interior and represent a potential resource for the future use of lunar resources by humans.”

We wish South Korea well in this important mission as another country seeks to establish a presence around the Moon.

After: These Failed Moon Missions Remind Us That Space Is Tough.

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