South Korea says 2022 moonshot on track, will test interplanetary internet and search for water

Orbiter nearly built ahead of ride with SpaceX in August '22. But first, a home-grown rocket launch in a month or so


South Korea's first lunar expedition is on track for lift-off in August 2022.

The country's Ministry of Science and ICT updated the nation on the progress of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter – an effort to place a satellite around Luna.

The Ministry made a fuss about the successful integration of ShadowCam, an instrument provided by NASA that will peer into permanently dark spots on the Moon in the hope of finding useful material.

The Orbiter will also carry equipment to conduct experiments in Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN), one of the protocols the InterPlanetary Networking Special Interest Group (IPNSIG) hopes will make data networks possible across the solar system.

Other instruments aboard the probe will measure the Moon's magnetosphere, image its surface, and attempt to map the materials on the surface of Earth's sole natural satellite.

SpaceX will launch the orbiter in August 2022, and it will then take a leisurely three months to reach Lunar orbit before settling in for year of observations.

A very short DTN primer

As Douglas Adams observed, space is mind-bogglingly big. So even though the TCP/IP networks that work so well on Earth can do a job up there, they struggle because they're not designed for many minutes of latency. Nor are they built to operate well when a network resource does something like become unavailable because it goes behind the Moon for a few hours.

DTN aims to address that issue by adding a "bundle protocol" – essentially store-and-forward tech – to the networking stack, so that network resources can be made aware of packets that need to be sent once it's possible to do so. DTN is explained in considerable detail here [PDF].

The Lunar mission will be South Korea's first adventure of this sort, but before it takes off the nation hopes to have achieved its own satellite launch capability with a vehicle named "Nuri".

Standing 47m tall, boasting three stages and designed to lift 1500kg payloads to orbits of between 600km and 800km, Nuri has already flown one test mission. Last week South Korea's Aerospace Research Institute conducted the final static firing test of the engines that will power Nuri's planned October 2021 maiden voyage to space.

That effort will use a test payload. South Korea hopes to launch a live payload in 2022, and then conduct regular launches. All going well, it will achieve some measure of launch self-sufficiency and a chance to play in the booming launch business, giving national pride a fillip! ®

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