Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter

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Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO)
Mission typeLunar orbiter
Operator Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)
Website kari.re.kr/eng/sub03_04_01.do
Mission duration1 year (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)
Launch mass678 kg (1,495 lb) [1] [2]
Dry mass≈ 550 kg (1,210 lb) [3]
Payload mass40 kg (88 lb)
Power760 watts [4]
Start of mission
Launch date1 August 2022 [1]
Rocket Falcon 9 Block 5
Launch site Cape Canaveral
Contractor SpaceX
Moon orbiter
Orbital insertion16 December 2022 [5]
Orbital parameters
Periselene altitude 100 km [2]
Aposelene altitude 100 km
Inclination90° (polar)
Band S-band, X-band [4] [6]
Lunar Terrain Imager (LUTI)
Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera (PolCam)
KPLO Magnetometer (KMAG)
KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer (KGRS)
Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment (DTNPL)
ShadowCam (NASA)
Phase 2: lander and rover 

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) is a planned lunar orbiter by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) of South Korea. The orbiter, its science payload and ground control infrastructure, are technology demonstrators. The orbiter will also be tasked with surveying lunar resources such as water ice, uranium, helium-3, silicon, and aluminium, and produce a topographic map to help select future lunar landing sites.


The mission is planned to be launched in August 2022 on a Falcon 9 Block 5 launch vehicle. [1]


South Korea's space agency, called Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), together with NASA produced a lunar orbiter feasibility study in July 2014. [7] The two agencies signed an agreement in December 2016 where NASA will collaborate with one science instrument payload, telecommunications, navigation, and mission design. [8] [9] [10]

The Korean Lunar Exploration Program (KLEP) is divided in two phases. [9] [11] Phase 1 is the launch and operation of KPLO, which will be the first lunar probe by South Korea, [8] meant to develop and enhance South Korea's technological capabilities, as well as map natural resources from orbit. The key goals of the KPLO orbiter mission include investigation of lunar geology and space environment, exploration of lunar resources, and testing of future space technology which will assist in future human activities on the Moon and beyond.

Phase 2 will include a lunar orbiter, a lunar lander, and a 20 kg rover, [12] to be launched together on a KSLV-2 South Korean launch vehicle from the Naro Space Center, [10] [11] in 2025. [13] [14]


The main objectives of this mission are to enhance the South Korean technological capabilities in the ground and in outer space, and to "increase both the national brand value and national pride". [15] The specific technological objectives are: [6]

From the lunar science perspective, understanding the water cycle on the Moon is critical to mapping and exploitation. [16] Solar wind protons can chemically reduce the abundant iron oxides present the lunar soil, producing native metal iron (Fe0) and a hydroxyl ion (OH) that can readily capture a proton to form water (H2O). Hydroxyl and water molecules are thought to be transported throughout the lunar surface by mysterious unknown mechanisms, and they seem to accumulate at permanently shadowed areas that offer protection from heat and solar radiation. [16]

Science payload

KPLO carries six science instruments with a total mass of approximately 40 kg (88 lb). [6] Five instruments are from South Korea and one from NASA: [17] [10] [16]


Originally planned for a December 2018 launch, [10] [20] KPLO is now scheduled for an August 2022 launch on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. [1] The orbiter will perform at least three highly elliptical orbits of Earth, each time increasing its velocity and altitude until it reaches escape velocity, initiating a trans-lunar injection. After launch, it will take the spacecraft about one month to reach the Moon. [10] The spacecraft's main propulsion is from four 30-newton thrusters, and for attitude control (orientation) it uses four 5-newton thrusters. [6] [10]

See also

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