South Korea’s space agency, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), has awarded a contract worth over US$5.74 million (CA$7 million) to Canadian company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).
Under the contract, MDA will provide KARI with the communication subsystems needed for the Korean Lunar Exploration Program, which aims to develop and launch a lunar orbiter by late 2018. MDA’s subsystems will provide relay information between KARI’s proposed lunar orbiter and the ground station on earth.
This contract is neither MDA’s first deal with KARI – the company currently provides satellite information services to the space agency for its Arirang 2 and Arirang 3 Earth Observation satellites – nor its first space exploration communication subsystems attempt.
However, it will be of particular importance to KARI, as the lunar orbiter will be South Korea’s first mission to the moon. Its launch will complete the first phase of the KARI’s lunar exploration program, and will pave the way for the development of a lander, rover, and other deep space exploration missions.
Known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO, or Pathfinder), the spacecraft will be a collaborative effort between KARI and NASA, with whom they signed an agreement in 2016. As such, Pathfinder will carry four payloads developed in South Korea and one payload from the US, an optical camera known as ShadowCam developed by Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems.