N.Korea 'Test-Launches 1st Spy Satellite'

  • By Roh Suk-jo

    December 20, 2022 10:31

    North Korea conducted an "important final-stage test" of a spy satellite on Sunday, the official Korean Central News Agency claimed on Monday.
    It claimed the satellite was launched from the Sohae rocket launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province.
    This suggests that the two rockets the North fired at a steep angle into the East Sea that day were designed to carry a satellite, but the South Korean military said they were medium-range ballistic missiles.
    KCNA also released satellite images of Seoul and Incheon that it claimed were shot from space.
    The North's National Aerospace Development Administration said a vehicle carrying a "test-piece satellite" was launched to an altitude of 500 km in what is "the final gateway process of the launch of reconnaissance satellite." The North will "finish the preparations for the first military reconnaissance satellite by April 2023," it added.
    But the Joint Chiefs of Staff here insisted that the two projectiles were ballistic missiles. The JCS on Sunday announced only their flight distance but unusually did not disclose other information. Normally South Korean military authorities publish flight speed, time and maximum altitude of any North Korean missiles that are detected.
    Satellite images published by the [North] Korean Central News Agency on Monday show Incheon (left) and Seoul.
    The images of downtown Seoul and Incheon port were black and white. KCNA said the country's aerospace administration "confirmed important technical indicators such as camera operating technology in the space environment, data processing and transmission ability of the communication devices, tracking and control accuracy of the ground control system."
    Their quality is significantly worse than Google Earth, but the area around the South Korean presidential office in Yongsan, bridges over the Han River and Songdo Central Park in Incheon are clearly recognizable.
    KCNA said the mock satellite has a color camera with spatial resolution of 20 m, two multispectral imagery cameras, an image transmitter, data transmitter-receivers with various bandwidths, a control module and a battery.
    Prof. Chang Young-keun of Korea Aerospace University said that is unimpressive. "Current reconnaissance satellites normally have 0.5-m resolution cameras and even university research centers are making satellites with 1-m resolution cameras," Chang said. "A satellite with a 20-m resolution camera doesn't seem to have any military or reconnaissance value and isn't even very useful as an earth observation satellite."
    But a military officer here said. "Regardless of their quality, this is the first time the North has launched a satellite and shot images of South Korea. It's still progress as far as the North is concerned."
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