A week and a half after the launch of a North Korean spy satellite, South Korea sent its first military surveillance satellite into space. The Falcon 9 rocket belonging to the US space company SpaceX, carrying the satellite, took off from the Vandenberg spaceport in the US state of California on Friday. South Korea wants to use the satellite to monitor the activities of its hostile neighbor, North Korea. South Korea had previously announced economic sanctions.
Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday identified 11 North Koreans blacklisted for the launch of its first military reconnaissance satellite last week. Accordingly, there are five people who have connections to their country’s satellite and weapons development, including employees of the state aviation and space agency NATA.
Therefore, unauthorized financial transactions with affected South Koreans are prohibited under criminal sanctions. The ministry accuses six more North Koreans of participating in the development and implementation of the ballistic missile program. Depending on the design, such rockets can also be equipped with a nuclear warhead.
Seoul took the measure in close coordination with the United States, Japan and Australia. All three countries have decided to impose their own sanctions against individuals and organizations acting on behalf of North Korea. The four partner countries accuse North Korea of using technologies directly related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program during the satellite launch on November 21. UN resolutions prohibit the country from launching or even testing ballistic missiles.
According to South Korean news agency Yonha, the satellite launched by South Korea on Friday will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 400 to 600 kilometers. Therefore, it can only detect objects on Earth that are 30 centimeters in size. South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said the country is now one of the five most advanced countries in the world when it comes to satellite technology, according to Yonha. Seoul plans to launch four more spy satellites into space by the end of 2025.
“South Korea has so far relied heavily on US-operated spy satellites,” Choi Gi-il, a military expert at South Korea’s Sangji University, told AFP. The country has already launched satellites for military communications. But in the case of surveillance satellites, this took longer due to “higher technological hurdles.”
Choi Gi-il said after the launch of the North Korean spy satellite on November 21 that the South Korean government must prove that it can do something similar.
North Korea managed to launch the satellite last week after two unsuccessful attempts in May and August. According to North Korean state news agency KCNA, the launch vehicle carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite took off from North Phyongan Province.
South Korea later confirmed that the satellite had been successfully placed into orbit. According to information from North Korea, the satellite has already captured “detailed” images of the White House and the Pentagon in Washington, as well as US and South Korean military bases.