South Korea launches its first mission to the Moon. He’s done it on a repurposed SpaceX Falcon 9, and that’s a milestone

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South Korea can already boast of having thrown a space mission to the Moon. If all goes well – and it seems that it will – the Asian country will thus become the eighth country in history to put a satellite into orbit around another planetary body.

The Korean mission is also unique for another milestone: the spacecraft that will orbit the Moon, called KPLO (Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, also called Danuri) has been released in a Falcon 9 which had already been released five times previously. Thus, not only South Korea achieves a unique milestone: so does SpaceX’s reusable rocket technologywhich for the first time shows that they can also be used for lunar missions.

Korea has saved a lot of money

When South Korea raised its KPLO mission at the end of 2017 decided it would use a Falcon 9 rocket to launch that ship. Only six months had passed since the first reuse of the first stage of these rockets was completed.

The rocket could finally be launched, and its first stage returned to our planet on its own so that it could be used for later launches. It seemed like magic – one that took years to work – and that made it clear that a spectacular space age was beginning: one in which reusable rockets would make everything much easier (and cheaper).

SpaceX managed to convince the South Korean space agency (KARI) to use a reusable rocket, and the bet seems to have paid off: the Falcon 9 B1052 had already had five previous launches and has allowed save money to that agency.

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That rocket probably has a few more launches ahead of it, as three other Falcon 9 rockets have made it to 13 launches, and SpaceX’s idea is to get to reuse them 15 times.

The KPLO probe will take time to reach its destination: to carry out this trip in the most efficient way, a lunar ballistic trajectory has been used that will mean that after several months Danuri will reach the appropriate position to enter lunar orbit in December 2022.

Although the Falcon 9 is capable of significantly shortening that journey, the South Korean agency decided to change that trajectory and thus save fuel in the probewhich will allow it to fulfill its lunar exploration function for much longer.


KPLO’s goal is to “map” the Moon with various cameras and explore a potential location for a future mission that will reach the surface of our satellite. The probe even includes an instrument called ShadowCam, which has been provided by NASA and could be crucial in determining how much water ice lurks in the shadows of the Moon.

South Korea can already boast of having thrown a space mission to the Moon. If all goes well – and…

South Korea can already boast of having thrown a space mission to the Moon. If all goes well – and…

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