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South Korea and Australia have signed a memorandum of understanding on space cooperation

An MOU (memorandum of understanding) was signed between South Korea and Australia to cooperate in launch services, space exploration, and satellite navigation. The two countries also committed to strengthening their capabilities in Earth observation, space situational awareness, debris management, and space traffic management. 

The MOU was signed during a video chat between Lim Hye-sook, who is the science and ICT minister of South Korea, and Melissa Price, who is the science and technology minister of Australia, on December 10th. The two countries made the announcement on December 13 in Canberra at a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his Australian colleague, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The Ministry of Science and ICT will start working with the Department of Industry, Science and Technology of Australia to progress specific initiatives in domains including satellite development, space exploration, and satellite navigation,” Lim said in a statement. The MOU will be valid for five years and will be automatically renewed unless one of the parties submits a formal refusal.

President Moon referred to Australia as a “strategic partner” who is going to continue to broaden the scope of collaboration with South Korea in the domains of defense, space, and clean energy during a luncheon with Prime Minister Morrison on December 13. During a media briefing following the summit, Morrison stated the partnership will allow Australia to play a “major role” in space.

“In 2018, Australia launched a space agency and is accelerating efforts to grow its space sector. With the deployment of the Nuri spacecraft this year, Korea has also marked a new turning point in space development,” Morrison added, referring to the debut of South Korea’s first homegrown rocket on October 21. “I expect that the Memorandum of Understanding will boost trade and foster collaboration in domains ranging from the launch vehicle industry and space exploration to satellite navigation and that it will serve as a stepping stone for the two countries to expand into space together.”

In its inaugural launch on October 21, South Korea’s first domestically built rocket achieved its intended height, but the third-stage engine closed down 46 seconds early, dropping its 1,500-kg dummy payload at a speed less than orbital. The false payload is scheduled to reenter the atmosphere south of Australia, although KARI (Korean Aerospace Research Institute) did not specify a timetable for this.

“Nuri’s flight was completed. This is something I’m incredibly proud of. President Moon Jae-in made the announcement at the Naro Space Center situated in Goheung, where the kerosene-propelled, three-stage KSLV-2, also referred to as Nuri, launched off at 4 a.m. Eastern transporting a 1.5-ton dummy payload. “Shooting a rocket to a height of 700 kilometers is an incredible achievement in and of itself. “We’ve taken another stride toward space.” The science ministry of South Korea said there is a lot of room for cooperation, citing Australia’s strong need for satellite imagery to track natural disasters like wildfires. According to the ministry, Australia also has large fields that are suited for rocket launches.

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