North Korea admits satellite launch failure, vows second attempt

Pyongyand said the second-stage booster of the space launch vehicle crashed into the West Sea after the separation of the first stage.

Ji Da-gyum

Ji Da-gyum

The Korea Herald


A commuter watches a TV report at Seoul Station, in the center of the capital, about North Korea's firing of what it claims to be a "space launch vehicle" southward on May 31, 2023. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the launch from Dongchang-ri on the North's west coast at 6:29 a.m., and the projectile flew over the waters far west of the South's border island of Baengnyeong. (Yonhap)

May 31, 2023

SEOUL – North Korea admitted its attempt to put a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit on Wednesday morning had failed, vowing that it would conduct another launch “as soon as possible.”

North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration launched the military reconnaissance satellite Malligyong-1 using the newly developed space launch vehicle Chollima-1, according to North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The launch was conducted at 6:27 a.m. local time at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongyang Province.

But the state media swiftly issued a statement at around 9 a.m. to explain the causes of the failure. North Korea said the second-stage booster of the space launch vehicle experienced abnormal ignition, resulting in a loss of propulsion. The vehicle crashed into the West Sea after the separation of the first stage.

“The National Aerospace Development Administration will conduct a detailed investigation and analysis of the serious flaws observed during the satellite launch and promptly come up with scientific and technological measures to fix them,” KCNA said in a Korean-language statement.

The NADA also said it will “carry out the second launch as soon as possible” after conducting tests to fix the problems.

The South Korean military said that the projectile was fired southward from the Tongchang-ri area at around 06:29 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The projectile flew over far west of the island of Baengnyeong, triggering an air raid siren.

“But the launch vehicle descended with abnormal flight into the sea around 200 kilometers west of the island of Eocheong in the Yellow Sea,” the JCS said. “Further analysis has been underway in coordination between South Korea and the United States.”

According to a military source, the launch vehicle disappeared from radar and did not reach the designated point on the flight path indicated by North Korea.

North Korea had planned for the first-stage rocket to land far off the west coast near the city of Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, according to the landing points that North Korea provided in advance to the Japanese government.

The fairing, which serves as a protective cover for the satellites on the launch vehicle, was designated to descend into the far western waters of Jeju Island. As for the landing point of the second-stage rocket, it was specified to land in the sea off Luzon Island in the Philippines.

The launch came after North Korea had repeatedly indicated its intention to launch its first military spy satellite.

Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said Tuesday that North Korea will launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in June and various reconnaissance means to track and monitor “dangerous military acts of the US and its vassal forces” in real time.

North Korea’s satellite launch breaches multiple UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from using ballistic missile technology.

Space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, share certain technologies that can be identical or interchangeable. This overlap exists because the principles and engineering involved in launching objects into space are similar to those used in ballistic missile systems

The difference between a space launch vehicle and a missile is what sits on top — a satellite or a warhead.

The launch of a satellite-equipped launch vehicle is the first occurrence in seven years since the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 long-range rocket on Feb. 7, 2016.

The launch came one day after North Korea informed the International Maritime Organization of its scheduled satellite between May 31 and June 11.

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