South Korea confirmed Monday that it is planning to launch its first military spy satellite on November 30, using a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Elon Musk's SpaceX. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
SEOUL, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- South Korea will send its first military reconnaissance satellite into orbit on Nov. 30, defense officials confirmed on Monday, amid reports that North Korea is moving ahead with plans for a third attempt at launching its own spy satellite.
The South Korean satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara, California, Defense Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha Gyu told reporters at a press briefing.
The launch vehicle will be a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Elon Musk's SpaceX. South Korea has previously relied on the U.S. military to monitor the North from space, but Seoul signed a contract with SpaceX last year to launch five spy satellites by 2025.
The move comes as North Korea missed its self-declared October timeframe to make a third attempt at placing its own military satellite into orbit after failures in May and August.
On Sunday, North Korea designated Nov. 18 "Missile Industry Day" in commemoration of the test-firing of its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile last year, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
Seoul and Washington have been closely monitoring activity by the North for indications of an upcoming satellite launch, potentially tied to the anniversary date, officials said.
"U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies continue to work closely together to track and monitor North Korea's various provocations, including the third launch of a space launch vehicle," Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Sung-joon said at Monday's briefing.
He added that the agencies were monitoring with "the possibility of various provocations in mind, including on the occasion of such [missile] anniversaries."
Last week, new Defense Minister Shin Won-sik told local reporters that officials believe Pyongyang could be relying on technical assistance from Russia for its satellite launch.
"North Korea could try again on its own even if it fails, but the launch may have been delayed as Russia provided specific technical guidance (for the satellite)," Shin said. "We place more emphasis on the latter."
Pyongyang and Moscow have stepped up ties in recent months, with the White House saying that the North has already begun shipping artillery to Russia for its war in the Ukraine.
North Korea is reportedly seeking advanced technology for its space and missile programs in return. Leader Kim Jong Un's visit to Russia in September included a summit with President Vladimir Putin at a space launch facility in the remote forests of Siberia.
While South Korea is using a SpaceX rocket to place its spy satellite into orbit this month, Seoul has also been eager to develop its own space program. The country successfully launched its first homegrown rocket in June 2022 and Defense Minister Shin said there are plans to launch a domestic solid-fuel rocket this year.