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 the South Korean government.

The Japanese government said it flew over the Okinawan islands at around 10:01am and a rocket stage fell into the Pacific Ocean off the Philippines a few minutes later.

If right, it appears the rocket followed its planned flight path quite closely. The rocket’s second stage was due to splash down just east of the Philippines.

Here’s a timeline, according to the reports:

09:49 Launch from Sohae-ri launch facility
09:58 Part of rocket splashes down 200kms off the west coast of South Korea (this roughly matches the first-stage splashdown zone announced by North Korea)
09:59 Second part of rocket splashes down 300kms off the south west of South Korea (matching fairing splash down)
10:01 Overflies Okinawan islands
10:05 Part of rocket splashes down 300kms east of the Philippines (this roughly matches the announced second-stage splash-down area)

Here’s what North Korea originally said it planned. It matches pretty well with what’s been reported, which makes it much more of a success than the previous launch.

121203-launch-01

Launch Surprise

The launch came as a surprise to many — probably most — North Korea watchers.

The DPRK had originally said it planned to launch the rocket between December 10th and 22nd and then extended the launch window until December 29. The reason for the extension, announced just two days ago on December 10th, was a “technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module.”

South Korean media had reported the rocket had been emptied of fuel and was being taken off the launch pad. In satellite image analysis published on this site and 38North just an hour before the launch, Nick Hansen said the rocket still appeared to be on the launch pad but that an immediate launch was unlikely.

North Korean Media Report Launch Success

North Korean state media reported the launch in an unscheduled news bulletin at 11:20am.

Japan Condemns Launch

Here are the details the Japanese government shared in a news conference:

At approximately 09:49 today, it appears that North Korea launched a missile, which it calls a “satellite”, as North Korea announced on the 1st of this month.

It is estimated that the missile, which North Korea calls a “satellite”, passed over Okinawa of Japan at approximately 10:01. Information we obtained has been immediately disseminated to our people, local public authorities and media organizations through Em-Net and J-Alert systems and other means. It is also estimated that the first rocket fell to approximately 200 kilometers west of the Korean Peninsula in the Yellow Sea, the second one to approximately 300 kilometers south-west in the East China sea and the third one to approximately 300 kilometers east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. – Japanese Government spokesman

The Japanese government, predictably, wasn’t happy with the launch:

The Government has strongly urged North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from conducting the launch in recognition that this launch would undermine the peace and stability of the region including Japan, and violate the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions as well as the Presidential Statement of the Security Council issued after the launch of a missile in April this year. Despite such efforts, it is extremely regrettable that North Korea forced to conduct the launch. The launch is intolerable to Japan, and the Government lodges a strong protest to North Korea. – Japanese Government spokesman