South Korea to conduct satellite launch as North Korea pushes to fire its 1st military spy satellite – DNyuz

South Korea to conduct satellite launch as North Korea pushes to fire its 1st military spy satellite

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea was set to launch its first commercial-grade satellite Wednesday as rival North Korea pushed plans forward to place its first military spy satellite into orbit.

The South Korean satellite is to be launched using a rocket made in the country as part of its space development program. Seoul officials say its launch has no military purpose, but many experts say it will eventually help South Korea acquire technologies and knowhow required to operate military surveillance satellites and build more powerful missiles.

The Nuri space launch vehicle was scheduled to lift off early Wednesday evening from a launch facility on a southern South Korean island, if no unexpected weather or other problems occur at the last minute, according to the Science Ministry.

Aboard the rocket are the main satellite, called “Next Generation Small Satellite 2,” and seven other smaller, cube-shaped satellites. A ministry statement stated that the main satellite is responsible for verifying radar imaging technology, and monitoring cosmic radiation near Earth orbit.

Wednesday’s launch is the third of its kind involving Nuri, South Korea’s first homegrown rocket.

In its first launch in 2021, the rocket’s dummy payload reached the desired altitude but failed to enter orbit. In its second attempt last year, South Korea successfully put what it called a “performance verification satellite” into orbit in a launch mainly designed to examine the Nuri rocket. South Korea became the world’s 10th nation to send a satellite into space with its own technology.

The launch coincides with increased military tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-launched more than 100 missiles — some of them nuclear-capable weapons designed to strike South Korea and the U.S. — in what it called efforts to respond to the expansion of military drills between the United States and South Korea. Analysts believe the North Korea’s test-firing spree is likely to be a way to get its competitors to reduce their training in military warfare and ease economic sanctions against the North.

On May 16, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed a finished military spy satellite at the country’s aerospace center and approved an unspecified future action plan on its launch.

During the visit, Kim cited the strategic significance of a spy satellite while vowing to bolster the country’s defense as “U.S. imperialists and (South) Korean puppet villains escalate their confrontational moves,” according to state media.

Some experts say the North Korean spy satellite disclosed in its state media doesn’t appear to be sophisticated enough to produce high-resolution imagery that can meaningfully boost the country’s surveillance capacities.

But Lee Choon Geun, an honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said the North Korean satellite is still likely be capable of monitoring the deployment of incoming U.S. strategic assets like an aircraft carrier and the movements of South Korean warships and fighter jets.

“Having a spy satellite would be better than having none, said Lee.

Lee predicted that after North Korea’s first spy satellite launched, it would try to launch several other satellites, most likely advanced satellites. “With three to five satellites, North Korea can have an almost real-time monitoring on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

Lee said the North’s first spy satellite launch could happen in June. Some experts believe the launch is more likely to happen during the second half of the year.

Jung Chang Wook of the Korea Defense Study Forum in Seoul said that the North Korean effort to launch a spy satellite shows it is concerned about South Korea’s satellite launch program.

Unlike South Korean and other countries’ satellite launches, North Korea’s satellite liftoff would be a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which ban the country from engaging in any form of ballistic launches. U.N. considered the North Korean launches of satellites for Earth observation as a test of their long-range missile technologies, because space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles often have similar engines, bodies and other parts.

South Korea currently has no military reconnaissance satellites of its own and depends on U.S. spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea. South Korea is aiming to launch their own satellites for surveillance soon.

Jung stated that while the South Korean spy satellite, which will be launched on Wednesday was not developed primarily for military use, it would still provide the country with technologies to develop intercontinental missiles and military surveillance satellites.

“It is just about how you (publicly describe) a launch. There is no reason to provoke our neighbors unnecessarily,” Jung said.

South Korea already has missiles that place all of North Korea within striking distance. But Jung said South Korea needs longer-range missiles to prepare for future security threats that can be posed by potential adversaries like China and Russia.

Lee argued that the Nuri rocket’s use as a weapon is not military-relevant because it relies on liquid fuel, which requires a much longer time to fuel than solid fuel.

He said that there was “enough chance” for the launch to support South Korea in its efforts to develop a space surveillance system. The commercial satellite will be launched on an orbit which is similar to reconnaissance satellites.

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