South Korea has announced its plans to launch its first domestically built spy satellite at the end of this month, aiming to better monitor rival North Korea, especially amidst its continued expansion of nuclear weapons. The satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Under a contract with SpaceX, South Korea plans to launch four additional spy satellites by 2025.
Currently, South Korea relies on U.S. spy satellites for surveillance of North Korea. However, the launch of its own spy satellites will provide South Korea with an independent real-time surveillance system, bolstering its defense capabilities. When combined with South Korea’s three-axis system, consisting of preemptive strike, missile defense, and retaliatory assets, the country’s overall defense posture against North Korea will be significantly strengthened.
It is worth noting that while U.S. spy satellites offer higher-resolution imagery, they operate under U.S. strategic objectives rather than South Korea’s. Additionally, the U.S. sometimes withholds sensitive information from South Korea. Therefore, possessing its own spy satellites will give South Korea more control over its surveillance efforts.
South Korea launched its first satellite using its own technology in 2022, making it the 10th nation to achieve this feat. This successful launch demonstrated South Korea’s capability to launch satellites heavier than the upcoming spy satellite. However, further tests are needed to ensure the rocket’s reliability. Utilizing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for the spy satellite launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base is deemed more economical.
On the other hand, North Korea’s attempts to launch its own spy satellite this year were unsuccessful due to technical issues. South Korea’s spy agency has suggested that North Korea may be receiving Russian assistance for its satellite program and could attempt another launch soon. North Korea’s development of spy satellites is part of its broader arms build-up as a response to perceived U.S. threats. There are concerns over potential arms technology transfers between North Korea and Russia, although both nations have denied any such deal.
While the failed North Korean satellite launch was considered too basic for detailed military reconnaissance, it could still potentially identify larger targets like warships, serving some military purposes. The possession and development of spy satellites by both South Korea and North Korea reflect the ongoing security concerns and efforts to enhance national defense capabilities.
Sources: South Korea-AP News