South Korea's first homegrown military reconnaissance satellite has been successfully launched into orbit.
Seoul's defense ministry said Saturday that the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket loaded with the satellite was launched at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in the U.S. state of California at 3:19 am Saturday, Korea Standard Time.
The spy satellite was placed in orbit after breaking away from the rocket some 14 minutes after the launch and communicated with a ground station at 4:37 am, about an hour after liftoff.
The satellite project began in 2018 with the goal of reinforcing the military’s surveillance and response capabilities against North Korea's key strategic targets. The ministry plans to launch four additional satellites through 2025.
The satellite was developed under the direction of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the Agency for Defense Development, the Aerospace Research Institute and local enterprises.
The design, assembly and testing of the satellite was accomplished entirely with homegrown technology, while 60 to 70 percent of its parts were domestically produced.
The satellite employs high-resolution electro-optical and infrared imaging systems developed by South Korea through three decades of experience producing multipurpose satellites.
Its imaging systems can detect objects as small as 30 centimeters from hundreds of kilometers above the Earth.
South Korea's military authorities said the successful launch gave Seoul its first satellite capable of independently monitoring North Korea's major threats.
The military plans to test-run the satellite over the next four to six months before putting it to military use in the first half of next year.