Korean spacecraft enters lunar orbit for the first time

(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time in history, the Republic of Korea has created an automatic interplanetary station. A lander called Danuri (KPLO) has successfully landed on the Moon and, after several orbital corrections, will begin a year-long science program.

As the SpaceNews portal writes with reference to the corresponding official press release of the Korean Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology, Danuri performed the first maneuver to enter the working orbit on December 17, but a full confirmation of the trajectory appeared two days later.

Its speed decreased from 8 thousand kilometers per hour to 7.5 thousand, it entered an elliptical orbit with an apopulation of 8,920 kilometers and a perilocation of 109 kilometers.

Before the end of the year, the probe will have to turn on its engines four more times to make the orbit almost circular.

The last maneuver is scheduled for December 28, then the final analysis of all the orbital parameters of the device should take place, and the trajectory is expected to be confirmed the next day.

Throughout 2023, KPLO will operate at an altitude of about 100 kilometers above the surface of the moon.

Korean spacecraft enters lunar orbit for the first time 2
Preparation of Danuri (Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter) for transportation to the USA before launch

On board the probe, weighing only 550 kilograms (not counting the remaining fuel), there are six instruments, five of which were created by scientific organizations in South Korea:

  • Lunar Terrain Imager ( LUTI ) – a mapping camera with a resolution of less than five meters per pixel, designed to search for the landing site of the next Korean missions to the moon;
  • Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera ( PolCam ) – a wide-angle camera for studying the properties of regolith by polarimetry (analysis of surface characteristics by measuring the polarization of reflected light);
  • KPLO Magnetometer ( KMAG ) – a magnetometer and a set of ultra-sensitive magnetic sensors to determine the weak magnetic field of the Moon;
  • KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer ( KGRS ) – a gamma ray spectrometer for mapping the distribution of chemicals over the lunar surface;
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment ( DTNPL ) – equipment for testing the “interplanetary Internet” (delay-tolerant broadband).
Korean spacecraft enters lunar orbit for the first time 3
Danuri in the clean room of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The instruments on board the apparatus are clearly visible. Large tube with a pink cap on the end

The sixth device in the Danuri payload is the ShadowCam , commissioned by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ).

Since the American space agency advised Korean colleagues and assisted in the preparation of the mission, space was allocated on the apparatus for an instrument from the United States.

The camera was developed by Arizona State University along with Malin Space Science Systems .

The mission of ShadowCam is critical to the Artemis program for manned exploration of the moon.

The camera is supposed to detect water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the poles of Earth‘s natural satellite.

The instrument is similar to the main “eye” of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe, but several hundred times more light sensitive. Ice ShadowCam will search for barely noticeable reflections from the background light from the Earth, stars and the device itself.

It is noteworthy that KPLO flew to the moon for more than three months – it was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from the launch pad SLC-40 of the US Space Force Base at Cape Canaveral on August 4.

But after the completion of the second stage of the carrier , Danuri was not on a direct departure trajectory to the Moon, but on a ballistic one – in fact, at first it moved towards the Sun.

This way is longer, but saves a lot of fuel. Which is extremely important for a small device.

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