Lim Hye-sook, right, South Korea’s science and ICT minister, holds a signed MOU for space cooperation with Australia at her office in Seoul, Dec. 10. Australia’s science and technology minister Melissa Price is seen on the nearby monitor. Credit: South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and Australia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on space exploration, launch services and satellite navigation. The two countries also agreed to improve their capacities in space situational awareness, Earth observation, space traffic and debris management.

The MOU was signed during a Dec. 10 video call between South Korea’s science and ICT minister Lim Hye-sook and Australia’s science and technology minister Melissa Price. The two nations announced this Dec. 13 during a summit between President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and his Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in Canberra.

“The Ministry of Science and ICT will start running a consultative team jointly with Australia’s Department of Industry, Science and Technology to advance specific projects in various fields such as satellite development, space exploration and satellite navigation,” Lim said in a statement.

The MOU will be effective for five years and automatically renewed if no party puts forward a formal rejection.

During a Dec. 13 luncheon with Prime Minister Morrison, President Moon called Australia a “strategic partner” that will continue to expand the scope of cooperation with South Korea in the fields of space, defense and clean energy.

Morrison said the partnership would help Australia play a “significant role” in space during a press conference following the summit.

“Australia established a space agency in 2018 and is spurring efforts to foster its space industry. Korea has also set a new turning point for space development with the launch of the Nuri rocket this year,” Morrison said, referring to the Oct. 21 debut of South Korea’s first homegrown rocket. “I hope that the MOU… will enhance exchange and foster cooperation in fields ranging from space exploration and the launch vehicle industry to satellite navigation, and …become the stepping stone for the two countries to expand into space together.”

South Korea’s science ministry said the potential for cooperation is great, noting Australia’s high demand for satellite imagery to monitor natural disasters such as wildfires.  Australia, the ministry said, also has vast fields suitable for rocket launches.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...