South Korea has announced its plans to launch its first domestically built spy satellite at the end of this month. The satellite is intended to improve monitoring capabilities of rival North Korea, which has been expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal. The announcement came shortly after North Korea failed to launch its own reconnaissance satellite in October due to technical issues.
Jeon Ha Gyu, a spokesperson for the South Korean Defense Ministry, revealed that the military spy satellite will be launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on November 30. The satellite will be carried by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. South Korea has a contract with SpaceX to launch four more spy satellites by 2025, thereby strengthening its independent space-based surveillance system.
Currently, South Korea relies on U.S. spy satellites to monitor North Korea, as it has no military reconnaissance satellites of its own. The possession of its own spy satellites will significantly enhance South Korea’s overall defense against North Korea when combined with its three-axis system (preemptive strike, missile defense, and retaliatory assets).
The launch of the spy satellite will mark an important milestone for South Korea, as it becomes more self-reliant in its space-based surveillance capabilities. The country’s previous successful satellite launch in 2022 demonstrated its ability to deploy a satellite using its own technology. The use of a SpaceX rocket for the spy satellite launch from Vandenberg base is also seen as a more cost-effective choice.
North Korea has been actively working towards acquiring its own spy satellites. However, its previous launch attempts this year were unsuccessful. South Korea’s spy agency recently informed lawmakers that North Korea may be receiving assistance from Russia for its spy satellite program.
The possession of spy satellites is part of North Korea’s broader arms build-up plans, which include the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic weapons, and multi-warhead missiles. It is speculated that North Korea is seeking advanced weapons technologies from Russia in exchange for military equipment. However, both Russia and North Korea have denied such an arms transfer deal.