On Friday, South Korea revealed plans to deploy its inaugural military reconnaissance satellite, set for launch early Saturday aboard a SpaceX rocket. This move intensifies the space chacompetition in the Korean Peninsula, spurred by North Korea’s recent launch of its first military satellite.
A source from the defence ministry shared with the media that the surveillance satellite, scheduled for liftoff at 0319 Seoul time (GMT 1819), will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California.
If the satellite achieves successful orbital placement, South Korea will have attained its inaugural domestically manufactured espionage satellite designed for monitoring nuclear-equipped North Korea. Seoul aims to deploy four more surveillance satellites by the conclusion of 2025, enhancing its reconnaissance capabilities concerning North Korea. Positioned at an altitude ranging between 400 and 600 kilometres above the Earth, the South Korean satellite possesses the capability to identify objects as diminutive as “30 centimetres” (11.8 inches), as reported by the Yonhap news agency.
An image surfaced, revealing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket prominently displaying the letters “KOREA,” positioned in an upright stance on the launch pad.
The recent launch occurred within a fortnight of Pyongyang’s successful deployment of its surveillance satellite. Choi Gi-il, a professor of military studies at Sangji University, noted that South Korea has traditionally relied heavily on US-operated spy satellites for North Korean monitoring. While the South has achieved success in launching a military communications satellite, developing a reconnaissance satellite has been a more prolonged process due to advanced technological challenges, according to Choi. In response to North Korea’s recent satellite launch, Choi emphasized the importance for the South Korean government to showcase its capability in this domain. Experts suggest that a functional reconnaissance satellite would enhance North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly concerning South Korea, and furnish crucial data in potential military conflicts.
Following last week’s satellite launch, North Korea asserts that its recently deployed satellite has captured images of significant US and South Korean military installations, along with photographs of the Italian capital, Rome. However, the specific satellite imagery claimed by North Korea has not been made public. The recent launch, named “Malligyong-1,” marked Pyongyang’s third endeavour to place such a satellite into orbit, following two unsuccessful attempts in May and August. South Korea has alleged that North Korea received technical assistance from Moscow, with the understanding that it would provide weapons for use in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.