With North Korea’s announcement last month that it would try again to launch a small satellite into orbit, many braced for what they expected to be yet another catastrophic failure from the isolationistic nation run by the man China was punked into thinking was called the sexiest man alive earlier this month. Instead, all went incredibly well, and now we have confirmation of orbital delivery of a satellite into an orbit of over 300 miles above the earth.
A simulation of the launch profile from the earlier April launch attempt which failed. The new, successful, launch used a nearly identical launch profile:
Some have raised concerns that this launch indicates that North Korea now has ICBM capability. Of course the performance of the Unha launch system, while suitable to put a 100 lb satellite into orbit, is completely incapable of launching even the smallest nuclear warhead onto an intercontinental ballistic path. It simply lacks the performance.
The satellite is a simple device by all accounts, broadcasting a song on a frequency of 470 Megahertz as it orbits around the earth. The song is reportedly the “Song of General Kim Jong Il” which can be heard here:
The launch did come amid concerns of UN sanctions and protests by neighboring nations. In particular, South Korea is now feeling a bit of embarrassment as its national launch vehicle, the Naro-1, has been plagued by many of the same issues which have been following the North Korean launch vehicle, and similarly has had two failed launch attempts to date. The third attempt two weeks ago was halted only minutes from launching when systems control detected an electrical system fault in a key sysem. They are now planning for a January launch attempt. The Naro-1, developed in partnership with the Khrunichev firm of Russia, is expected to have similar performance to the North Korean Unha launch system.
The Korean penninsula space race is now on.