Korea’s project to launch a lunar probe using its own launch vehicle has passed its feasibility study by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance to reach the final budget deliberation stage, the last before commencement.
The Korean government’s lunar exploration project took concrete shape through the preceding Roh Moo-hyun administration’s Space Development Roadmap and Lee Myung-bak administration’s Basic Promotion Plan for Space Development. The current government is planning to come up with its own lunar orbiter and lunar module by 2020, moved up by five years compared to the previous government road map.
The project is divided into two phases. The goals of the first phase, which continues until 2017, include the completion of the basic technical design of the orbiter and module in cooperation with NASA, and the development of a test orbiter. At the same time, the scientific equipment to be carried in the orbiter and earth-bound control station to be responsible for deep space communication are will be built.
The second phase is for the self-production of the orbiter and module and actual launch using a Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV). To this end, 15 government-funded research institutes such as the Korea Aerospace Research Institute have formed a council and conducted 31 research tasks.
According to the results of the recent feasibility study, the economic value of the lunar exploration is estimated to be approximately 3.8049 trillion won (US$3.4689 billion), which is equivalent to 5.17 times the budget input. In addition, the project is expected to create 324.6 billion won (US$296.1 million) in added value along with 4,800 jobs. Intangible effects, like a higher national brand value and national pride, are boundless.
The government signed a joint research agreement for lunar exploration with NASA in July this year. The arrangement is based on Korea’s need for core orbiter and probe technology, and the United States’ attempt to do more economical space research. The U.S. is currently concentrating on Mars, which means budget for the moon is hard to come by. It is expecting its research equipment to be loaded onto Korea's test orbiter and probe slated to be launched in 2017. Korea is anticipating that mutual cooperation will help the development of its navigation and deep space communication technologies. However, the cooperation could misfire if the project goes awry for any reason.