Sohae visit adds to launch, payload knowledge
It’s been a day since foreign reporters were given a tour of North Korea’s Sohae launch facility. Stories have been filed, photos have been uploaded and video has been broadcast, so what have we learned?
The man of the moment at the launch site was Jang Myong Jin, who was identified as general manager of the launch facility and widely quoted in reports. Jang repeated government assertions that the launch is peaceful in purpose and intended to launch a satellite.
“If it were a ballistic missile it would have to be hidden in an underground chamber, or would need to be carried on board another vehicle for protection. If it were not, then it would be useless in a real war,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
He would have a point if Sohae was believed to be a ballistic missile base — missiles are much less effective if your enemy knows their location — but the international worry is centered around it being a technology test for rocket systems.
At least two space experts appear to have been part of the media tour: James Oberg is a spaceflight operations specialist and spent 22 years at NASA’s Mission Control in Houston and is now space correspondent for NBC News; and Christian Lardier, a European analyst.
Not surprisingly, the two were quoted by other media outlets.
An independent European analyst who visited the launch site said he saw nothing obvious that raised red flags. ”I don’t know what they want to do in the future, but today what we see is a space launcher,” said Christian Lardier. — CNN, “North Korea prepares controversial rocket launch,” April 9, 2012.
An American space expert accompanying a U.S. television network couldn’t hide his surprise at what he saw. He said he has never seen a satellite, stripped of its protective cover, put on display in such close proximity to onlookers. — Kyodo News, “A train trip to Tongchang-ri, N. Korea’s rocket launch site,” April 9, 2012.
A report on Zvezda TV, a channel run by Russia’s Ministry of Defence, said the satellite on show was a “replica,” according to a transcript of a broadcast report. But this wasn’t reported by any of the other media outlets at the launch site so it’s unclear if this was a claim of the North Koreans or the assumption of the correspondent.
[Update: In a Q&A on the NBC News website, Oberg said: "We asked whether this was a mock-up; in fact, we kept on asking them again and again because they insisted this was a real satellite."]
Perhaps the most interesting report came from Oberg himself, who wrote on NBC News about some of the aspects of the site previously a mystery from satellite images — confirming some and correcting others. He wasn’t writing from the geo-political implications angle that dominated most news reports but as a space insider interested in the launch.
AP did add something to our knowledge of the satellite payload:
The satellite is designed to send back images and information that will be used for weather forecasts as well as surveys of North Korea’s natural resources, Jang said. He said a western launch was chosen to avoid showering neighboring nations with debris. He said two previous satellites also named Kwangmyongsong, or Bright Shining Star, were experimental, but the third will be operational. — AP, “Rocket in position at launch pad in North Korea,” April 9, 2012
This is interesting on two fronts:
Assuming the satellite makes it into orbit, people are going to be listening for signals from the craft. If a recognizable song is received it would be pretty conclusive proof of a successful launch and deployment of the satellite. Data signals, perhaps of image data or craft telemetry, would be more problematic because they would need to be decoded to prove their source was Kwangmyongsong-3 and not some other satellite in the same patch of sky.
It’s also interesting to see the differentiation between “experimental” and “operational” satellites. North Korea claims to have launched two satellites in the past, but there has never been a single trace of either. Governmental, military and civilian monitors in numerous countries have never reported a signal, sighting or radar reflection off either craft. The country maintains they both launched and were successful.
One other tidbit: Several reports mentioned that journalists were not allowed to take computers or mobile phones with them on the 5-hour train journey to the launch facility.
Finally, some video from Reuters TV:
|Print article||This entry was posted by Martyn Williams on April 10, 2012 at 07:07, and is filed under Space. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
No comments yet.
about 2 months ago - 2 comments
The DPRK has submitted registration papers for the recently launched Kwangmyongsong 3-2 satellite to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. The papers were dated January 24 but were only made available this week by the Vienna-based organization. They were submitted by the DPRK’s diplomatic mission in the city. They don’t provide any new…
about 5 months ago - 6 comments
North Korea’s Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, launched on December 12 but apparently silent ever since, has been captured on video by a South African satellite watcher. [UPDATED: See below] Greg Roberts posted several video clips on YouTube that show reflections of light from the sides the satellite as it orbits the Earth. The clips are from December…
about 5 months ago - 23 comments
It’s been a few days since North Korea put a satellite into space — a massive technological step for the country and something widely condemned by other countries — but we’re still not much closer to knowing anything about what’s up in space. It only took a few hours for North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD),…
about 5 months ago - 4 comments
North Korea’s international radio broadcaster, the Voice of Korea, carried two items in English on Wednesday announcing the rocket launch. The first led the news bulletin and was just over two minutes long: The second, announced over a musical bed, was about 3 minutes long and came at the end of the hour-long broadcast: Both…
about 5 months ago - 2 comments
U.S. Space Command is tracking three objects in orbit that apparently came from today’s North Korean rocket launch. The primary object is thought to be the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite. It’s been given the satellite catalog number 39026 and the international designator 12-072A — both identifications that help keep sorted the catalogs of satellites and junk in…
about 5 months ago - 2 comments
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, says it tracked the North Korean rocket launch and that it appears to have placed an object in orbit. Here’s the statement, issued out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, NORAD said: North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems…
about 5 months ago - 5 comments
North Korea’s state media has claimed success in its attempt to put a satellite in orbit. Here’s the KCNA bulletin that ran just after noon local time: The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday. The satellite…
about 5 months ago - 4 comments
So much for delays, technical problems and bad weather. (And so much for satellite imagery analysis!) North Korea launched its rocket on Wednesday morning local time at a little before 10am in the morning, according to reports from regional governments. The missile was launched from the Sohae-ri launch facility, according to an immediate report from…
about 5 months ago - 1 comment
A NorthKoreaTech/38 North exclusive, with contributions by Nick Hansen and Michelle Kae New GeoEye satellite imagery from December 10 shows activity at North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) related to the removal of the Unha rocket from the launch pad, a process that is probably still underway and will not be completed before December…
about 5 months ago - No comments
The latest satellite imagery of North Korea’s Sohae-ri Launch Facility is in from GeoEye and adds weight to possibility that weather is causing problems at the launch pad. The image, taken earlier Monday, shows a blanket of snow covering most of the launch facility. Visible in some areas are vehicle tire tracks, indicating some movement,…