*** ----> South Korea set to launch first spy satellite with SpaceX | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

South Korea set to launch first spy satellite with SpaceX

AFP | Seoul

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

South Korea will launch its first military spy satellite early Saturday on a SpaceX rocket, Seoul’s defence ministry said, intensifying a space race on the peninsula after Pyongyang launched its first military eye in the sky last month.

Seoul’s reconnaissance satellite, carried by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, will lift off from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California at 0319 Seoul time (GMT 1819), a defence ministry official told reporters yesterday.

SpaceX released a photo of its Falcon 9 rocket erected vertically on the launch pad with the letters “KOREA” emblazoned across it. If it is successfully put into orbit, South Korea will have acquired its first domestically-built spy satellite to monitor nuclear-armed North Korea.

Seoul plans to launch four additional spy satellites by the end of 2025 to bolster its reconnaissance capacity over the North. Set to orbit between 400 and 600 kilometres above the earth, Seoul’s satellite is capable of detecting an object as small as “30 centimetres” (11.8 inches), according to the Yonhap news agency.

“Considering resolution and its capacity for Earth observation... our satellite technology ranks in the top five globally,” the defence ministry official said, as quoted by Yonhap. The launch comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang had successfully put its own spy satellite into orbit. “Until now, South Korea has relied heavily on US-run spy satellites” when it comes to monitoring the North, Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University said.