South Korea yesterday said that it conducted its first successful launch of a solid-fuel rocket in what it called a major step toward acquiring space surveillance capability.
The launch came six days after North Korea carried out its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test since 2017 in an apparent attempt to expand its weapons arsenal.
The South Korean-built solid-propellant rocket soared into the sky before releasing a dummy satellite in space, photographs released by the South Korean Ministry of Defense showed.
Solid-fuel rockets reduce launch times, have simpler structures, and are cheaper to develop and manufacture than liquid-fuel rockets, the statement said.
South Korea would soon launch a spy satellite into orbit aboard a solid-fuel rocket, it said.
South Korea currently has no military reconnaissance satellites of its own and depends on US spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea.
In 2020, South Korea won US consent to use solid fuel for space launch vehicles, removing a restriction that Washington had previously imposed on its Asian ally out of concerns that use of the technology could lead to a regional arms race.
Last year, the US lifted other remaining restrictions to allow South Korea to develop missiles with unlimited ranges.
Yesterday’s launch came amid tensions over North Korea’s launch of an ICBM on Thursday last week.
The ministry said that North Korea fired a previously tested Hwasong-15 ICBM, rather than a longer-range Hwasong-17 that it claims to have tested.
“Coming at a very grave time following North Korea’s lifting of the weapons test moratorium, this successful test-launch of the solid-fuel space launch vehicle is a key milestone in our military’s efforts to [build] a unilateral space-based surveillance system and bolster defense capability,” the statement said.
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