South Korea will launch its first domestically-made spy satellite into space later this month to bolster its intelligence-gathering capabilities, ABC News has reported.
The plan was announced a few months after North Korea’s two unsuccessful launches of its own satellite to monitor the US and other adversaries.
According to a defense ministry spokesperson, the military reconnaissance satellite will provide better monitoring of Pyongyang as it pushes to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal to prepare for a potential conflict.
Seoul has no spy satellites in orbit, relying on US space assets to monitor its adversary.
The indigenous satellite will reportedly be carried by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and is expected to launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on November 30.
Independent Space-Based Surveillance System
South Korean Defense Ministry official Jeon Ha Gyu admitted that while the US-made satellites provide higher-resolution imagery, they still operate under US strategic objectives.
He also claimed that the US occasionally does not share satellite photos with highly sensitive information.
Having a spy satellite that operates within South Korea’s strategic objectives would give Seoul an independent space-based surveillance system to monitor North Korea in near real-time.
Additionally, the asset would sharply strengthen the so-called three-axis system against Pyongyang, which consists of preemptive strikes, missile defense, and retaliatory assets.
South Korea is expected to launch four more spy satellites by 2025.
Rivaling North Korea
In May, North Korea attempted to launch a military spy satellite, but it plunged into the sea due to “serious defects.”
The crash prompted a complex, 36-day South Korean salvage operation to retrieve parts and send them to the US for analysis.
Three months later, Pyongyang made its second attempt to launch its first spy satellite in space, but it failed again due to an error in the emergency blasting system.
A third attempt was promised in October but did not go through.