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< Korea, U.S. Sign Lunar Exploration Agreement > (December 30, 2016)

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed the Korea-U.S. Cooperation Implementation Agreement on Lunar Orbiter Mission (hereafter "Implementation Agreement") on December 30.

The Implementation Agreement stipulates specific details and outlines for the partnership between the two organizations on the development and deployment of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), target for launch in 2018. KARI and NASA conducted a feasibility study for a lunar exploration partnership between the two organizations in July, 2014, and carried out working-level discussions for the next two years to hammer out the details and methods of cooperation.

According to the agreement, Korea will have the overall responsibility for manufacturing and operating the entire lunar orbiter system, while the U.S. will develop payloads (that do not overlap with those developed by Korea) and load them in the Korean lunar orbiter. NASA will also provide the communication and navigation for the successful operation of the lunar orbiter, and both parties will form a joint science team to carry out a variety of scientific research projects utilizing the data observed by the orbiter.

The Korean Government intends to carry out planetary exploration through international partnerships in phases until 2040, based on the Long-term Plan for Space Development established. The project will also represent the first concrete cooperative effort since the Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement went into effect in November 3 and is expected to prime the pump for further expansion of space cooperation between Korea and the U.S.

Based on the Implementation Agreement, the NASA payloads to be in the lunar probe for testing will be selected in February of this year, followed by working level discussion on deep space navigation and the design of the lunar orbiter main body and system.

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