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KARI Joins Hands with NASA to Launch Lunar Exploration Next Year
Space Development
KARI Joins Hands with NASA to Launch Lunar Exploration Next Year
  • By Cho Jin-young
  • December 31, 2015, 01:00
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The Kaguya lunar probe.
The Kaguya lunar probe.


The government held the 22nd Space Development Promotion Working Committee, under the chairmanship of the First Vice-minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Lee Seok-jun, at the Government Complex Gwacheon on Dec. 30. There they deliberated and voted for the “Stage 1 Lunar Exploration Development Plan.” In a bid to reduce the trial and error associated with the nation’s first lunar exploration and strengthen its space exploration technology competence, it will also promote technological cooperation with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

The ministry will provide some space inside of a test orbiter to NASA, and it will receive technology assessment on the development of data processing systems such as lunar orbiter trace and deep space navigation, deep space network establishment and lunar images, and consultation support from NASA. In order to build trust for lunar exploration technological cooperation between the two countries, they are planning to enter into an international agreement on cooperation details and role assignment between the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and NASA by the first half of 2016.

A lunar exploration project is the space development project as part of the national agenda of the Park Geun-hye administration – “space power realization with space technology independence” and “space development medium and long-term plan (2014-2040).” The government plans to pursue the project in two incremental steps. In the first three years beginning in 2016, the government aims to develop and send a test orbiter to the moon in cooperation with foreign agencies including NASA, to secure basic technologies needed for exploring the moon. In the second stage to be pursued between 2018 and 2020, it plans to independently develop an orbiter and a lander based on development experiences in the first stage, and launch them on its self-developed rocket.

In a bid to set up a technological base for lunar exploration, 16 government-funded research institutes have been working together to conduct a preliminary study of lunar exploration from 2014, and the government signed an agreement in May 2015 for cooperation on joint research with NASA. As it has finally secured 20 billion won (US$17.05 million) of the 2016 new budget, the government can start the first stage of the lunar exploration project in earnest.

The government will invest 197.82 billion won (US$168.64 million) of the budget in the first stage for three years from 2016 to 2018, and KARI will be in charge of developing a test orbiter, its main body for launch, payload and deep space network.

For the preliminary study in the second stage, it will conduct basic research on sectors that need long-term studies to develop and send an orbiter to the moon with its own technologies, such as orbiter, lander, delay tolerant network (DTN), nuclear battery, rover and the upper part of a launch vehicle. The DTN is a communications technology designed to operate effectively over extreme distances from the earth to the moon, or 380,000 km, without interruption.