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Japan successfully propels steam-powered spacecraft

PLUS: Criminal probe of Singapore crypto exchange; Bosch invests in China R&D; $2B APAC datacenter fund formed; and more

Asia In brief Japan's space agency has successfully used water to propel a spacecraft and claimed it represents "the world's first successful orbit control beyond low-Earth orbit using a water propellant propulsion system."

The craft in question is EQUULEUS, the 6U CubeSat that rode along on NASA's Orion mission.

After flying past the Moon, EQUULEUS was pointed at the second Earth-Moon Lagrange point (EML2). To get there it used an engine named AQUARIUS (AQUA ResIstojet propUlsion System) that uses water as fuel. The craft uses waste heat from communications kit to heat the water into steam that is squirted out to produce thrust.

As explained in this presentation [PDF], water is easier to store and handle than other fuels so is ideal for use in small, cheap, satellites.

AQUARIUS also needs little power to operate but is not very powerful. EQUULEUS will take a year and a half to reach EML2 – a point in space worth visiting because it's advantageous for transfer to other orbits. That includes interplanetary orbits.

The combination of EQUULEUS and AQUARIUS makes a visit to EML2 achievable at low cost and is a test case for future visits to the spot.

EQUULEUS carries an instrument called DELPHINUS (DEtection camera for Lunar impact PHenomena IN 6U Spacecraft) designed to observe Lunar impact flashes and near-Earth asteroids from EML2. Another instrument aboard EQUULEUS will observe Earth's plasmasphere.

- Simon Sharwood

$2 billion fund targets APAC datacenter builds

Singaporean real estate investment firm SC Capital and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority have formed a $2 billion venture aimed at funding the construction of datacenters across the APAC region.

The investment will be overseen by SC Zeus Data Centers, an entity that SC Capital established in early 2022 to manage its datacenter portfolio.

The fund will focus on Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia.

SC Zeus already has presences in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The firm designs, develops, and manages datacenters across the region.

- Simon Sharwood

Singaporean authorities investigate criminal acts at crypto exchange Hodlnaut

Singapore's police last week announced the city-state's white collar crime investigation agency – the Commercial Affairs Department – has opened an investigation into locally based crypto exchange Hodlnaut.

"Between August and November 2022, the police received multiple reports alleging that Hodlnaut and/or its directors had made false representations relating to the company's exposure to a certain digital token," Singapore's police stated. Reports suggest Hodlnaut had a stake in collapsed crypto firm FTX.

"Arising from these police reports, the CAD is investigating Hodlnaut and its directors for possible cheating and fraud offences."

Hodlnaut entered "Judicial Management" – a legal status similar to receivership – in September 2022, and has issued regular updates to investors whose funds have been frozen after a liquidity crisis.

- Simon Sharwood

Korea and Singapore finalize digital partnership

Trade ministers form Singapore and Korea signed a digital partnership last week, concluding a year-long effort to make such a deal.

The partnership, known as the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA), establishes digital trade rules that promote system interoperability.

Key features of the agreement [PDF] include support for development of e-payments, ways to eschew data localization, responsible AI, source code protection, consumer welfare, personal data security and more.

The KSDPA is the first digital partnership for Korea and the fourth for Singapore – although the first for Singapore with an Asian country.

Korea's trade minister, Dukgeun Ahn,”said the KSDPA will likewise serve as the model and stepping stone in Korea's expanding digital trade network."

The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Korea-Singapore Digital Economy Dialogue. Associated meetings will include government and private industry representatives, and commence early next year.

MOUs for digital certificate of origin (COO), data exchange for digital customs clearance paperwork review, and joint R&D projects for AI ethics and governance systems are also in the works.

Bosch opens smart mobility R&D center in Shanghai

German auto parts maker Bosch opened an R&D center in the Pudong district in Shanghai last week.

The facility represents a total investment of around $21 million and includes an office sprawling over more than 107,000 square foot (10,000m2). The center is slated to employ over 540 workers.

It is the third and largest R&D center for Bosch in China. The company employs a total of 1400 people in China – 80 percent of whom work in R&D.

The center is mobility focused, with projects expected on digital cockpits, smart cars, and software related research, said Bosch on Chinese social media.

The auto parts manufacturer hopes to have its new full-stack intelligent driving platform, complete with sensors, computing platforms, algorithm application and cloud connectivity, mass produced in 2023.

The company said its intelligent cockpit platform already had six major Chinese OEM projects. A next generation version is currently in development.

"The new platform will integrate some driver assistance functions to provide customers with smarter cockpit products," said Bosch.

"We hope to actively cooperate with Jinqiao Economic Development Zone and its upstream and downstream enterprises in the automotive industry chain to jointly empower the innovation and development of intelligent vehicles in the Chinese market."

LG Electronics re-orgs to chase growth

South Korea's LG Electronics has announced a re-org as it chases new strategy and improved profits.

The big change is the creation of a "Corporate Customer Experience (CX) Center" which will report directly to LG's headquarters.

"The main role of the CX Center will be to create a seamless and expanded customer experience," an LG announcement proclaims. "It will also develop strategies and roadmaps to foster greater innovation at every stage of the customer experience journey from product planning and customer service to future business models."

The re-org will see LG's Home Entertainment (HE) Company establish an R&D division in Indonesia "to enhance collaboration between overseas R&D and manufacturing bases."

The company has also set up a division dedicated to electric vehicle chargers – one of several efforts targeting the automotive industry.

- Simon Sharwood

Pakistan's government to subsidize smartphone purchases

Pakistan last week introduced a program called "Smartphone for all" under which the government makes an up-front payment covering 30 percent of the price of a smartphone.

Low-income Pakistanis pay the remainder of the price on an instalment plan.

The scheme is designed to connect more citizens to government services.

Pakistan's comms minister also recently pledged that 5G mobile services will come to the nation next year.

- Simon Sharwood

China plans robotic Lunar outpost

China plans to create a robotic outpost on the Moon by 2028.

State organ China Dailylast week reported plans to send a robotic mission named Chang'e 6 to retrieve samples from the far side of the Moon. Next will come the Chang'e 7 robot on a mission to search for water and other resources at the Moon's south pole.

Chang'e 8 will also land at the south pole and join with Chang'e 7 to create a robotic outpost at which orbiters, landers, rovers and detectors work as "a prototype of a robotic scientific outpost."

- Simon Sharwood

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included coverage of

The UK banning Chinese CCTV cameras in "sensitive" government facilities.

China's antitrust watchdog proposed a revision of the nation's competition law to further target tech firms. The move comes after an unusual period of calm from the Middle Kingdom's regulators.

Baidu execs have shrugged off suggestions that US chip export restrictions have had a negative impact on the company's business and suggested the sanctions have accelerated the country's drive for self-sufficiency.

Meanwhile, Beijing declared victory over teenage video game addition, asserting around 70 percent of Chinese kids observe state-mandated gaming time limits.

Protests erupted at Foxconn over payment issues and COVID-19 lock-ins. Foxconn has not denied any pay discrepancies but referred to it as a "technical error."

After experiencing massive delays in passing data privacy rules, India has floated two separate ones in the space of a week.

Also in India, the IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar called for the development of artificial intelligence global standards to prevent the tech from harming humanity.

And Amazon quit India's edtech market as "one of many" cutbacks across the company.

AWS launched a new infrastructure region in Hyderabad, making it the second in India. The other region is in Mumbai.

Much like the rest of the tech industry, Asia's superapps are retrenching staff, despite reporting "strong" third quarter results.

Apple said it will change the odd way it charges commissions to developers in South Korea for sales of software in its App Store. Local developers will no longer pay three percent more than their international counterparts, according to the country's Fair Trade Commission.

Japan's payload on NASA's Orion spacecraft experienced mixed success this week. One of its Cubesats, EQUULEUS, sent back photos of the far side of the Moon, while OMOTENASHI missed its one chance to exit its orbit and strike the Moon, thanks to unresponsive radios.

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