South Korea launches first military spy satellite, intensifying space race with Pyongyang | South Korea – Freedom Voice

A SpaceX rocket has launched South Korea’s first military spy satellite, intensifying a space race on the peninsula after Pyongyang launched its own first surveillance satellite last week.

Seoul’s reconnaissance satellite, carried by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, lifted off from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California at 10.19am local time on Friday.

The rocket was emblazoned with the word “KOREA” across it.

The Yohnap news agency reported that the satellite successfully reached orbit soon after.

“The Falcon 9 lifted off at 10.19am and sent the reconnaissance satellite into orbit approximately four minutes after the launch,” Yonhap said, citing South Korea’s defence ministry.

Reaching orbit would mean that South Korea has acquired its first domestically built spy satellite to monitor nuclear-armed North Korea.

Seoul plans to launch four additional spy satellites by the end of 2025 to bolster its reconnaissance capacity over the North.

Set to orbit between 400km and 600km above Earth, Seoul’s satellite is capable of detecting an object as small as 30cm, according to Yonhap.

“Considering resolution and its capacity for Earth observation … our satellite technology ranks in the top five globally,” the defence ministry official said, as quoted by Yonhap.

The launch comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang successfully put its own spy satellite into orbit.

“Until now, South Korea has relied heavily on US-run spy satellites” when it came to monitoring the North, said Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University.

While the South had “succeeded in the launch of a military communications satellite, it has taken much longer for a reconnaissance satellite due to higher technological hurdles”, he said.

After the North’s successful launch of its own spy satellite, Choi said, “the South Korean government needs to demonstrate it can also pull this off”.

Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict.

Since last week’s launch, the North has claimed its new eye in the sky has already provided images of major US and South Korean military sites – as well as photos of the Italian capital, Rome.

It has not yet disclosed any of the satellite imagery it claims to possess.

The North’s launch of “Malligyong-1” was Pyongyang’s third attempt at putting such a satellite in orbit, after two failures in May and August.

Seoul has said the North received technical help from Moscow, in return for supplying weapons for use in Russia’s war with Ukraine.

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