SpaceX is about to launch the moon for the first time [webcast]

Not until (NET) 7:08 p.m. EDT (23:08 UTC) on August 4, the airline’s proven Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off from the LC-40 platform on SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral space station as part of of the company’s 34th 2022 launch. .

Carrying Korea’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) spacecraft, the mission will be SpaceX’s first direct launch to the Moon and could make South Korea one of the few countries to successfully enter orbit around a planetary body. other than Earth.

SpaceX has named a former Falcon Heavy booster B1052 for the first lunar launch. After debuting in April 2019 and supporting another Falcon Heavy launch in June, the former “side booster” has been idle for nearly 1,000 days, with each payload contracted to launch the most powerful operational rocket taking months or even years late. Eventually, SpaceX scrapped the wait and turned the car into a Falcon 9 booster, and Falcon 9B1052 debuted Jan. 31, 2022. KPLO will be its sixth launch overall and fourth as a Falcon 9.

B1052 is already equipped with an expendable upper stage, and is preparing for its first launch as a Falcon 9 booster. (Richard Engel)
B1052 ahead of its sixth flight and SpaceX’s first direct launch to the Moon. (SpaceX)

Technically, KPLO won’t be the first payload SpaceX has helped launch to the moon. That accolade is held by Israel’s Beresheet Moon probe, which launched an engagement payload aboard a Falcon 9 geostationary communications spacecraft in 2019. The spacecraft’s landing failed, but it entered a stable orbit around the moon before things get worse.

Instead of launching the satellite as a transfer payload into Earth orbit, KPLO (also known as Danuri) will be the only spacecraft aboard Falcon 9, and a SpaceX rocket will send the orbiter directly down a type of translunar injection (TLI) path known as lunar ballistic transfer. The BLT is much slower than some alternate 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 fuel to enter. in orbit.

If all goes as planned, KPLO – which weighs around 678 kilograms (about 1,500 pounds) at liftoff – will make several course corrections and finally enter lunar orbit in mid-December. The spacecraft is equipped with many cameras, network experiment and some scientific instruments, and the main purpose of the spacecraft is to explore a debris-free area for a future Korean lunar lander.

The Danuri lunar orbiter in South Korea. (curry)

The unnamed follow-on mission will be more national, as South Korea intends to launch it with its own Nouri missile. After failing on its first orbit launch attempt in October 2021, Nouri managed to reach orbit on its second launch attempt in June 2022.

KPLO is one of Up to six launches The world tour is scheduled for August 4, including two Chinese missions, the ULA launch on the US East Coast, New Zealand’s Rocket Lab mission and Blue Origin’s latest subtropical tourism launch. Excluding delays, KPLO will be the last launch of the day. The official SpaceX webcast will likely begin around 6:55 p.m. EST (22:50 UTC).

SpaceX is about to launch the moon for the first time [webcast]

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