South Korea Places Second Spy satellite in Orbit

By Nurat Uthman

South Korea’s second domestically made spy satellite was successfully put into orbit, Seoul’s defence ministry said Monday, after it was launched from an American space centre on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Seoul confirmed in December the successful launch of its first military spy satellite, which was also carried by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

“Our military’s second reconnaissance satellite successfully separated from the launch vehicle at around 09:02 (1202 GMT) and entered the target orbit,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“We plan to confirm whether the satellite is operating normally through communication with overseas ground stations,” it added.

The latest developments intensify a space race on the Korean peninsula after the North launched its first military eye in the sky in November last year.

The South’s first satellite has transmitted high-resolution images of central Pyongyang to the authorities in Seoul and is expected to commence its full mission stages as early as June, according to Seoul’s Yonhap news agency.

Seoul plans to launch a total of five military spy satellites by 2025 to better monitor the North.

Once all five enter orbit and commence their missions, the South Korean military will have the capability to monitor key facilities in North Korea using imagery sent around every two hours, according to a report by Seoul’s government-run broadcaster KTV.

North Korea, meanwhile, has claimed its spy satellite has sent images of a US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and “major target” sites across South Korea.

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

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

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.

Pyongyang this year has declared South Korea its “principal enemy”, jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.

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