U’nha-3 Launched: “Object Appeared to Achieve Orbit”

12 Dec
A Korean Central Television anchor finishes announcing the 12 December 2012 launch of the U'nha-3 (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

A Korean Central Television anchor finishes announcing the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

DPRK state media reported on 12 December (Wednesday) that “the second version of satellite Kwangmyo’ngso’ng-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket U’nha-3 on Wednesday.  The satellite entered its preset orbit.”  According to NORAD, “North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST. The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.”

Images from a music video which aired following a special new broadcast announcing the 12 December launch of the U'nha-3 rocket.  In the images are: the late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il's mythic birthplace (L) a previous launch attempt (C) and the Mansudae Apartment Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Images from a music video which aired following a special news broadcast announcing the 12 December launch of the U’nha-3 rocket. In the images are: the late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il’s mythic birthplace (L) a previous launch attempt (C) and the Mansudae Apartment Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

General Satellite Command and Control Center (Photo: Google image)

General Satellite Command and Control Center (Photo: Google image)

(Photo: Google image)

(Photo: Google image)

South Korean media reported on 12 December (Wednesday) that the U’nha-3 rocket was launched from the Sohae Satellite Launch Center (Sohae Space Center) in Tongch’ang-ri, Ch’o’lsan County, North P’yo’ngan Province at 9:49 am KST.  According to Yonhap the first stage landed in the Yellow Sea.  According to the Japanese Government, the U’nha-3 passed Okinawa around 10:01 am KST and ” that a debris of North Korea’s long-range rocket fell into waters off the Philippines at 10:05 a.m.”  Another South Korean government source said the U’nha-3’s rocket “flew according to its planned trajectory” and that launch “seems to be successful.”

The estimated shipment route in early November 2012 of missile parts from the Sanum-dong Research and Development Complex in Pyongyang to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North P'yo'ngan Province (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden )

The estimated shipment route in early November 2012 of missile parts from the Sanum-dong Research and Development Complex in Pyongyang to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North P’yo’ngan Province (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden )

The DPRK’s plans to attempt another of  launch of the U’nha-3 were most likely announced (or reaffirmed) to the country’s central leadership during a meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party Political Bureau held on 4 November.  In early November, satellite images caught sight of missile parts being shipped by train from the DPRK’s research and development facilities in Sannum-dong in northern Pyongyang to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.  On 5 December South Korean media reported  “circumstantial evidence was detected. . . showing the North has finished installing the third and final stage of the Eunha-3 (U’nha-3) rocket” and all that remained was the placement of communications, data measuring equipment and cameras and the fuel injection process.  On 8 December the Korean Committee for Space Technology [KCST] released a statement through DPRK state media which said that technicians were “seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time.”  According to South Korean media, also on 8 December, the Korean People’s Army [KPA] fired two surface-to-surface missiles.  On 10 December the KCST released another statement through DPRK state media in which it said that ” a technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket carrying the satellite” was found that it “decided to extend the satellite launch period up to Dec. 29.”  On 11 December (Tuesday) South Korean media quoted unnamed South Korean [ROK] officials who said that there were “signs of breaking apart the rocket at the Tongch’ang-ri launch site. It seems that the North’s trying to fix technical problems.”

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