In a recent development, the South Korean military has confirmed the recovery of debris from a North Korean spy satellite that fell into the sea in May following an unsuccessful launch. The military reports suggest the satellite was ill-suited for military surveillance purposes. These findings corroborate earlier skepticism about the device’s actual capabilities.
Last month, the South Korean military retrieved parts of the rocket intended for the satellite’s launch. “Following a detailed analysis of the major components of the North Korean launch vehicle and satellite, both South Korean and US experts concluded that they held no military utility as a reconnaissance satellite,” the South Korean army stated, marking the end of the recovery operation.
The satellite rocket was launched from the northwestern region of Tongchang-ri in North Korea on May 31. Both South Korea and Japan monitored the launch, reporting the rocket disappeared from radar shortly after launch. According to official accounts, the rocket lost propulsion before falling into the sea off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had previously stated that the deployment of the country’s inaugural military intelligence satellite unit was pivotal to strengthening national defences. This initiative incited widespread criticism from Indo-Pacific nations, with Japan and South Korea, in particular, opposing the satellite launch. Japanese authorities urged North Korea to desist from launching the reconnaissance device and pledged to work closely with allies on this matter.
This incident serves as another example of North Korean propaganda, given the heightened anticipation surrounding the satellite unit’s capabilities. As pointed out by C4ISRNET.com, “the satellite, as presented in photos from North Korean state media, appeared too small and roughly built to support high-resolution imaging.”
Notably, North Korea trialled a test unit last year, which reached a height of approximately 500 km above the Earth’s surface. While the prototype was equipped with a variety of cameras, transmitters, receivers, control systems and databases, experts remarked that the images obtained from the test mission showed underwhelming resolution for military surveillance purposes.