South Korea has announced its plan to launch its first domestically built spy satellite at the end of this month. The primary objective of this satellite is to improve monitoring capabilities over rival North Korea. This development comes in response to North Korea’s efforts to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons, posing a security concern.
This announcement followed North Korea’s failure to launch its reconnaissance satellite in October. Technical difficulties likely prevented North Korea from making its third attempt. South Korea’s move to strengthen its satellite capabilities is part of an ongoing effort to enhance its surveillance and security measures concerning North Korea.
The country’s new Defense Minister, Shin Won-sik, stated that the domestically built reconnaissance satellite will be launched on November 30th from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. South Korea’s Defense Ministry has revealed that this satellite launch is the first in a series of planned deployments.
The satellite launch will be entrusted to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, a renowned aerospace company based in California,. As part of South Korea’s space vision, it has contracted with SpaceX to deploy an additional four spy satellites by 2025, a move guided by its Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
South Korea’s quest for its military reconnaissance satellites is rooted in its reliance on U.S. spy satellites for monitoring North Korea’s activities. The independent deployment of its spy satellites will establish a solid space-based surveillance system that enables South Korea to observe North Korea’s actions almost in real time.
Coupled with South Korea’s three-axis defense strategy encompassing preemptive strikes, missile defense, and retaliatory capabilities, these spy satellites are expected to support the nation’s overall defense against North Korean threats. This development is crucial for enhancing national security and strategic preparedness, as emphasized by Lee Choon Geun, an honorary researcher at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.
While acknowledging that U.S. spy satellites deliver higher-resolution imagery, experts like Lee have pointed out that these assets primarily operate under U.S. strategic objectives rather than aligning with South Korea’s specific interests.
In some instances, the United States refrains from sharing satellite images containing highly sensitive information with South Korea. To bridge this gap and attain more autonomy in its surveillance capabilities, South Korea has undertaken the task of developing and deploying its military spy satellites.
The satellites are a cornerstone of South Korea’s three-axis defense system, enhancing the “kill chain” pre-emptive strike mechanism. By reinforcing ISR capabilities focused on deep areas and strategic targets within North Korea, these spy satellites plan to strengthen the country’s defenses and ensure a more comprehensive early warning system.
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