In a high-stakes race, South and North Korea are vying for success in launching their first homegrown military spy satellites, backed respectively by the United States and Russia, as a pivotal initiative aimed at enhancing their military capabilities.
The South Korean military is set to launch its domestically-developed reconnaissance satellite on Nov. 30 from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, South Korea’s new Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said Friday during his meeting with reporters.
California-headquartered US aerospace giant SpaceX's Falcon 9 will carry South Korea's first spy satellite.
The upcoming launch is part of South Korea's "425 Project," which aims to "secure the military's own reconnaissance satellites through research and development to monitor North Korea’s key strategic targets and respond" to potential threats, the Defense Ministry explained in a separate statement issued Friday.
In pursuit of this goal, the Defense Ministry has laid out plans to launch a total of five high-resolution military satellites by the year 2025 in light of the growing importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- or ISR -- assets for early detection of advancing North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
The ministry emphasized that military spy satellites will be the core of ISR assets, which serve as the cornerstone for South Korea's three-axis defense system.
Spy satellites are poised to significantly reinforce the first axis of the three-pronged defense system, dubbed the "Kill Chain" preemptive strike mechanism, by bolstering ISR capabilities across deep areas and strategic targets in North Korea.
If South Korea successfully put a spy satellite into orbit, the Defense Ministry said it would provide an opportunity to "showcase the military's superior scientific and technological capabilities when compared to North Korea's satellite launch failures in May and August."