A SpaceX rocket on Friday launched South Korea’s first military spy satellite, intensifying a space race on the peninsula after Pyongyang launched its first military eye in the sky last week.
Seoul’s reconnaissance satellite, carried by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, lifted off from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California at 10:19 am local time (GMT 1819 GMT).
“It is a beautiful day for launch and Falcon nine has successfully lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force base,” a SpaceX announcer said during a live broadcast.
The rocket was emblazoned with the word “KOREA” 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 kilometers (250 to 370 miles) above Earth, Seoul’s satellite is capable of detecting an object as small as 30 centimeters (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 defense 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.