No NK Rocket Launch Yet— but Will It Even Work?

North Korea's past launches all failed, experts believe
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2012 7:57 AM CDT
In this Aug. 31, 1998 photo a three-stage rocket, equipped with the North Korean-produced satellite Kwangmyongsong 1, or Bright Shining Star 1, is launched at the Tonghae satellite launching ground.   (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)

(Newser) – Thanks to bad weather, North Korea's anticipated rocket launch did not come to pass today, but Pyongyang still appears determined to go through with the launch—or, as the US and other allies see it, a long-range missile test—sometime before Monday, the AP reports. But the Los Angeles Times points out that North Korea has tried for similar launches three times already—and Western experts say all three attempts failed. North Korea first claimed a successful launch in 1998, but experts say no evidence of a satellite was actually found. The second attempt, in 2006, "was more or less a catastrophe," says one analyst; the rocket failed 40 seconds after lifting off.

The last attempt, in 2009, is believed to have been an improvement but still to have failed in the final stage and fallen into the ocean. When this fourth attempt occurs, the AP offers things to watch, including:

  • Will it actually get into orbit? The three stages take about 10 minutes; if all goes well, the satellite will be in orbit at that point.
  • Will it stay on course? Experts believe the probe will need to achieve some difficult navigation very quickly after liftoff in order to get into its proper orbit. If it veers toward Japan or South Korea, the two nations have promised to shoot it down.
  • Will we detect any broadcasts? The satellite is supposed to be broadcasting music in celebration of North Korea's founder. If the launch is successful, western Australia could pick up the broadcasts within 20 minutes.

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