May 24, 2024
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik, center, and other military officials watch from Seoul as the country's second spy satellite is launched on April 8, 2024.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik, center, and other military officials watch from Seoul as the country’s second spy satellite is launched on April 8, 2024. (South Korean Ministry of Nationa)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A South Korean military reconnaissance satellite launched Sunday in the United States is successfully in orbit and communicating with ground stations, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The spy satellite established contact at 10:57 a.m. Monday, South Korea time, nearly three hours after it was launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the ministry said in a news release.

The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is the second to be produced by South Korea. The first was launched Dec. 1 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif.

The satellite will undertake a “full-fledged” reconnaissance mission after some additional tests, the ministry said.

It is fitted with synthetic aperture radar sensors, which can penetrate interference like clouds and rain to produce high-resolution images of Earth, according to the Defense Technical Information Center.

Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said the latest satellite will enhance South Korea’s space-based spy capabilities against North Korea.

“The performance of the second military reconnaissance satellite is so outstanding that it does not even need to be compared to that of North Korea’s satellites,” Shin said in the release.

South Korea’s military said it intends to place two additional satellites in orbit by 2025.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has also expressed his own space ambitions with plans to launch three satellites this year, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Pyongyang may be launching a new satellite as soon as April 15, or the Day of the Sun, Shin said during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. The annual holiday in North Korea marks the birthdate of Kim Il Sung, the communist regime’s founder.

North Korea successfully launched its first Malligyong-1 spy satellite Nov. 21 after two failed attempts on May 31 and Aug. 24. KCNA reported the satellite had taken photos of the White House and other U.S. military installations; however, the country outlet has not released any images to date.

South Korea’s military said in February that the North’s satellite was in orbit but added there were no indications it was transmitting images back to Pyongyang.

South Korea and the U.S. have repeatedly warned the North against launching satellites. The allies allege the North’s launches include ballistic missile technology, which the regime is banned from using under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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