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SpaceX launches S. Korean spy satellite days after North’s launch

Dec 01, 2023

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched South Korea’s first homegrown spy satellite from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Friday, Dec. 1. The launch follows North Korea’s recent successful launch of its own spy satellite.

The satellite is equipped with electro-optical and infrared capabilities, following launches will feature synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which can “see” through cloud cover and at night.

South Korea has contracted SpaceX to launch a total of five spy satellites by 2025, aiming to achieve continuous surveillance of the Korean Peninsula.

There are a total of 25 spacecraft on board this mission, including KOREA’s 425, Space BD’s ISL48, SITAEL’s microHETSat, D-Orbit’s ION SCV Daring Diego, York Space Systems’ Bane, and PlanetIQ’s GNOMES-4.

The launch was postponed after North Korea declared the success of its military spy satellite launch in November. North Korea used its Chollima-1 launch vehicle to reportedly launch the Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite, succeeding after two prior failed attempts this year. 

FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what the country said is the launch of the Malligyong-1, a military spy satellite, into orbit on Nov. 21, 2023. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
Korean News Service

While Pyongyang hasn’t released satellite imagery, it asserts capturing various target regions, including the White House, Pentagon, U.S. military bases in South Korea, Guam, Hawaii and Seoul. Analysts note that the satellite’s complete capabilities remain unknown.

The U.N. Security Council prohibits North Korea from launching satellites, considering them a veiled test of its missile technology.

South Korea warned North Korea last month against proceeding with its spy satellite launch, indicating that Seoul might suspend a tension-reduction agreement and resume front-line aerial surveillance in response.

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