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North Korea’s Satellite Deemed ‘No Military Utility’ by South Korea

On July 5th, Seoul reported that the South Korean military successfully recovered the wreckage of a North Korean spy satellite that had crashed into the sea in May following a failed launch. Upon examination, it was determined that the satellite held no significant military value as a reconnaissance tool.

In addition to retrieving the satellite, last month, the military managed to salvage parts of the rocket involved in the unsuccessful launch. Both the booster and payload had crashed into the sea shortly after liftoff.

In a statement, the South Korean military announced the conclusion of salvage operations on Wednesday. These operations began immediately after the debris landed in the waters off the country’s west coast on May 31st. The recovery efforts involved the participation of aircraft, the navy, and deep-sea divers.

Experts within South Korea’s military community believe this to be the first instance in which South Korea has successfully secured a satellite launched by North Korea.

Initial assessments indicate that the satellite’s reconnaissance capabilities, particularly in terms of resolution and target tracing, were inadequate.

Lee Choon-geun, an expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, stated that the equipment’s reconnaissance capability was poor.

Yang Uk, a fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, concurred with this assessment, adding that the optical device loaded onto the satellite was ill-suited for military purposes.

Shortly after the launch, South Korea’s military had tracked the space vehicle and identified a large, cylindrical debris fragment in the water. However, the object sank to the seabed before it could be recovered.

Last month, North Korea made an unusual public acknowledgment of its failed launch, describing it as the most significant failure but expressing determination to achieve success in its orbital endeavors.

Since the 1990s, the nuclear-armed nation has been actively pursuing a satellite launch program, with the stated goal of launching its inaugural reconnaissance satellite to enhance surveillance of U.S. military operations.

In both 2012 and 2016, North Korea successfully launched objects that remain in orbit. Pyongyang claims these are observation satellites, but there has been no confirmation of their functionality or signal transmission.

The May 31st launch received widespread condemnation from South Korea, Japan, and Western nations, who viewed it as a violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit the North from using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea dismisses such criticism as an encroachment on its sovereign right to self-defense and exploration of space.

During a significant policy address in January 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to develop military reconnaissance satellites. In recent months, there have been indications that Pyongyang has upgraded its Sohae satellite launch site, possibly in preparation for another launch attempt.

At a Workers’ Party meeting in June, North Korea attributed the failure to a loss of thrust in the second-stage engine and criticized the “irresponsible” preparations carried out by officials and engineers involved in the launch.

Last month, North Korea made an unusual public acknowledgment of its failed launch, describing it as the most significant failure but expressing determination to achieve success in its orbital endeavors.

Since the 1990s, the nuclear-armed nation has been actively pursuing a satellite launch program, with the stated goal of launching its inaugural reconnaissance satellite to enhance surveillance of U.S. military operations.

In both 2012 and 2016, North Korea successfully launched objects that remain in orbit. Pyongyang claims these are observation satellites, but there has been no confirmation of their functionality or signal transmission.

The May 31st launch received widespread condemnation from South Korea, Japan, and Western nations, who viewed it as a violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit the North from using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea dismisses such criticism as an encroachment on its sovereign right to self-defense and exploration of space.

During a significant policy address in January 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to develop military reconnaissance satellites. In recent months, there have been indications that Pyongyang has upgraded its Sohae satellite launch site, possibly in preparation for another launch attempt.

At a Workers’ Party meeting in June, North Korea attributed the failure to a loss of thrust in the second-stage engine and criticized the “irresponsible” preparations carried out by officials and engineers involved in the launch.

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