South Korea launches second military spy satellite

South Korea has successfully launched its second military spy satellite into orbit, days after North Korea reaffirmed its plan to launch multiple reconnaissance satellites this year.

The neighbouring countries each launched their first spy satellites last year – North Korea in November and South Korea in December — amid heightened animosities.

They said their satellites would boost their abilities to monitor each other and enhance their own missile attack capabilities.

South Korea’s second spy satellite was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Sunday evening local time, which was Monday morning in Seoul.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the satellite entered orbit and communicated with an overseas ground station after separation from a rocket.

“With the success of the second military spy satellite launch, our military has acquired an additional independent surveillance ability and further bolstered our ‘kill chain’ capability,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha Gyu said in a statement, referring to the military’s pre-emptive missile strike capability.

Under a contract with SpaceX, South Korea was to launch five spy satellites by 2025.

In 2022, South Korea became the world’s 10th nation to successfully launch a satellite with its own technology. It used a homegrown rocket to place what it called a “performance observation satellite” in orbit.

But experts say it is economical to use a SpaceX rocket to launch spy satellite and that South Korea needs more launches to ensure the reliability of a rocket.

North Korea is also eager to acquire its own space-based surveillance network to cope with what it calls military threats posed by the United States and South Korea.

After two launch failures earlier in 2023, North Korea placed its Malligyong-1 spy satellite into orbit on November 21.

It has since said its satellite had transmitted imagery with space views of key sites in the US and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon, although it has not released any of those satellite photos, and foreign experts doubt whether the North Korean satellite can transmit militarily meaningful imagery.

On March 31, Pak Kyong Su, vice general director of the North’s National Aerospace Technology Administration, said North Korea is expected to launch several more reconnaissance satellites this year.

During a key political conference in late December, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to launch three additional military spy satellites in 2024.

South Korean Defence Minister Shin Wonsik said on Monday that North Korea will likely go ahead with its second spy satellite launch soon to mark the April 15 birthday of state founder Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of Kim Jong Un.

The U.N. bans North Korea from conducting a satellite launch, considering it as a disguised test of its long-range missile technology. The North’s November satellite launch deepened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with both Koreas taking steps to breach their 2018 agreement to lower down military tensions.


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