North Korea’s Space Program Not to Lift off Any Time Soon

March 19, 2012

North Korea’s Space Program Not to Lift off Any Time Soon. Source: diongillard/flickr

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is making a third attempt to convince the world that it can launch spacecraft. Although Pyongyang claims that two satellites have been orbited, independent analysts are unable to detect them. Even if the third launch attempt proves successful, it is unlikely to be completely functional.

Pyongyang to Launch Third Satellite Soon

North Korean officials have announced plans to launch another spacecraft soon. A spokesperson for the Korean Committee of Space Technology has told the Korean Central News Agency that the launch will take place between April 12 and April 16.

The satellite will be called Kwangmyŏngsŏng (Bright Star)-3.

Leading regional and world powers have called on the government of North Korea to renounce this idea. Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), France and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally have made statements to this effect.

All the concerned parties note that the satellite’s launch will become yet another glaring violation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s rocket and missile programs. But this is nothing new for Pyongyang.

North Korea’s Clandestine Missile Program

The North Korean rocket and missile program has been made possible by numerous violations of missile technology control regimes. After obtaining the required technology to produce R-17 Elbrus/SS-1 Scud-B tactical missiles, North Korea has managed to upgrade them considerably.

North Korea’s so far substandard missiles do have a sufficiently long range. However, Pyongyang is only reliably capable of building tactical weapons at this stage.

Advanced North Korean engineering products remain unreliable. Analysts describe their combat potential as unimpressive.

However, North Korea’s neighbors, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, are inclined to take Pyongyang seriously, particularly against the backdrop of two nuclear tests, which were officially announced by Pyongyang in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

North Korea’s space program obviously has a military dimension. In effect, satellite launches are being used to convince the United States that, if necessary, Pyongyang will be able to keep the United States in check. North Korean sources claim that a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching North America is currently being developed. This is the main aspect of an intricate situation created by Pyongyang strategists.

Space Launches and Wishful Thinking

Unlike purely military missile projects, the North Korean space program is an exercise in collective solipsism, a philosophical concept implying that only the self is sure to exist. But it appears that Pyongyang is now set to launch its third satellite.

Two spacecraft have been launched to date. But both launches were somewhat unusual.

The first North Korean launch vehicle, a converted Taepodong-1 ICBM, lifted off on August 31, 1998. On September 4, 1998, the North Korean media announced the launch of its first national man-made satellite.

Media reports claimed that the spacecraft was broadcasting the melodies of two immortal revolutionary hymns/marching songs, “The Song of General Kim Il Sung” and “The Song of General Kim Jong Il.”

The official report said the satellite was also broadcasting the “Juche, Korea” signal in Morse code at a frequency of 27 megahertz. The media report also listed the specific parameters of the satellite’s orbit.

This landmark North Korean science and technological breakthrough had one major flaw. No satellite was ever detected at an orbit with the officially mentioned parameters. U.S. and Russian tracking stations were unable to locate the spacecraft, which, as North Korea claimed, was swiftly revolving around the planet and broadcasting signals and melodies. Incidentally, no signals or melodies were received at any of the announced frequencies or any other frequencies.

North Korea attempted to launch another spacecraft using an upgraded Taepodong-2 ICBM in the spring of 2009. The national media once again claimed that the launch had been successful. The two popular marching songs were again broadcast at a frequency of 470 megahertz.

Independent analysts claimed that, just like its predecessor, the satellite had fallen into the Pacific Ocean or that, at best, it had entered a low orbit and fallen to Earth before tracking stations were able to register anything. In either case, no spacecraft was identified, and no one heard any marching songs.

The two satellites reportedly praising both great North Korean leaders exist only in the imagination of those who mostly receive information about the world from the North Korean media. Such people live in a gigantic inner empire, which has already started implementing its own space program, and which will soon unlock the secret of thermonuclear fusion.

This probably explains the fact that North Korea’s Bright Star will never create any neologisms similar to the Soviet-era Sputnik spacecraft. A genuine North Korean space launch could be converted into a surge of absolutely sincere labor and ideological enthusiasm. This could also help awaken the country and facilitate its development.

However, Pyongyang is forced to simulate successful launches for the lack of any real success, which is not forthcoming. The country’s government probably does not want to think about the mental turmoil of its citizens after they learn about the real state of affairs. North Korean officials probably think that the issue will become irrelevant after the country, at long last, manages to orbit a spacecraft that broadcasts marching songs about the two generals.

RIA Novosti (

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