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Apr 15

North Korea’s “unblemished track record of failure”

North Korea just can’t seem to get their rockets up in the air.  In a rare move, even the state-run Korean Central News Agency released a curt, terse brief admitting to the failure of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 launch:

Pyongyang, April 13 (KCNA) - The DPRK launched its first application satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38:55 a.m. on Friday.

The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.

Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.

The latest incident marks just another fallen rocket in North Korea’s “unblemished track record of failure” spanning just over two decades.

In May 1990, the first Nodong-1 short-range missile prototype was tested, to no avail.  Three years and many bungled prototype launches later, “success” came with the 500 kilometer (310.7 mile) flight of the missile harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

At the very end of August 1998, the Taepodong-1 medium-range missile launched without any advance warning by the North Korean government.  While it ended up flying about 1100 kilometers (683.5 miles), it fell way short of the missile’s intended flight of up to nearly 3000 kilometers, the reason being that one of the rocket’s flight stages outright failed to operate.

By 2006, the Taepodong-2 missile, a long-range missile with an estimated range varying wildly from 4000 kilometers to 15,000 kilometers, failed after a mere 35 seconds of flight.

And, of course, North Korea’s latest missile, launched under the pretense of being a weather satellite, lasted about 80 seconds before exploding mid-air.  Not much is known about the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 besides its spectacular nonperformance.

[News sources: Korean Central News AgencyCNN, The Wall Street Journal]

[Research/journal sources: Global Security on Nodong-1, Taepodong-1, Taepodong-2]

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