South's first spy satellite adds eyes to preemptive strike plan

이준혁 2023. 12. 3. 18:35
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The rivalry between the two Koreas heated up in space with South Korea’s successful launch of an indigenous military reconnaissance satellite over the weekend, which followed that of a North Korean satellite launch late last month.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying South Korea's first domestically developed military reconnaissance satellite is launched from Vandenberg U.S. Space Force Base in California on Friday (local time). [SPACEX]

The rivalry between the two Koreas heated up in space with South Korea’s successful launch of an indigenous military reconnaissance satellite over the weekend, which followed that of a North Korean satellite launch late last month.

The launch and the Navy’s successful test of a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) system earlier on Friday are expected to enhance South Korea’s preemptive strike and threat interception capabilities.

The South Korean spy satellite was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Friday (local time).

According to the Defense Ministry, the electro-optical and infrared satellite successfully entered orbit and established contact with a ground station just over an hour after the launch.

The satellite launched Friday is the first of five envisioned by the country’s 1.2-trillion-won ($927 million) 425 satellite project, which aims to launch four more synthetic aperture radar satellites into orbit that would provide regular updates at two-hour intervals by 2025.

The project is designed to develop an independent South Korean reconnaissance system to bolster the country’s Kill Chain preemptive strike capabilities. The country has long relied on U.S. commercial and spy satellites for high-resolution photographic intelligence on North Korea.

Kill Chain is one pillar in South Korea’s so-called “K-3 strategy,” which also includes the Korea Air and Missile Defense system to intercept incoming North Korean missiles, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan to eliminate the North Korean leadership for launching an attack.

According to Seoul’s Defense Ministry, the satellite launch “will lay the groundwork for enhanced South Korean military capabilities in space and help accumulate operational knowledge to usher domestic satellite development in the expanding security domain of space.”

The ministry also said it intends to incorporate the planned South Korean spy satellite network into a “left of launch” strategy to hobble or strike North Korean missiles before liftoff or during the first seconds of flight.

The South Korean military is also scheduled to conduct a second test of a domestically developed solid-fuel rocket to launch small, low-Earth orbit satellites later this month.

Meanwhile, the South Korean Navy announced Sunday that it had conducted its first successful domestic live-fire test of an SM-2 system in the East Sea, also marking an advance in the country’s interception capabilities vis-à-vis enemy missiles and aircraft.

The exercise, which saw an SM-2 fired from the Navy destroyer ROKS Gam-chan intercept a high-speed drone, was the first to be conducted in home waters. The Navy’s previous tests have been conducted during biennial Pacific Rim exercises at Hawaii's Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The advances in South Korean military technology and training come as tensions have heated up over the Korean Peninsula after the North launched its first spy satellite Malligyong-1 into orbit on Nov. 22.

The North previously conducted two failed attempts to launch a spy satellite into orbit in May and August.

Seoul has attributed Pyongyang’s success last month to technological assistance from Moscow after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a rare summit in September, where the latter expressed his intent to support the North’s space program.

While Pyongyang’s state media has since reported that the new North Korean satellite took photos of key U.S. military and government facilities in South Korea, Guam, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., it has not released images allegedly taken by Malligyong-1.

Officials from South Korea and the United States have only confirmed that the North Korean satellite is in orbit.

South Korean officials previously cast doubt on the North’s reconnaissance capabilities, saying that photographic equipment retrieved from the wreckage of the North Korean satellite launched in May was too poor in quality.

However, they have not made the debris available for evaluation by outside experts.


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