Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korea Launches a Unha-3 and what into orbit?

North Korea successfully launched a Unha-3 three stage rocket on Wednesday from its west coast launch site. The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.

"The satellite has entered the planned orbit," a North Korean television news reader clad in traditional Korean garb announced, after which the station played patriotic songs with the lyrics "Chosun (Korea) does what it says."

The Unha-3 rocket fired just before 9:49 a.m. local time (0049 GMT), and was detected heading south by a South Korean destroyer patrolling the Yellow Sea. Japanese officials said the first rocket stage fell into the Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula; a second stage fell into the Philippine Sea hundreds of kilometers (miles) farther south.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), later confirmed that "initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit," the first time an independent body has verified North Korean claims.
USSTRATCOM statement on N-Korea launch
NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs 

December 11, 2012

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST. The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.

North Korea's rocket launches

Dec 2012: North Korea launches three-stage rocket, says it successfully put a satellite into orbit; US defense officials confirm object in orbit.

Apr 2012: Three-stage rocket explodes just after take-off, falls into sea.

Apr 2009: Three-stage rocket launched; North Korea says it was a success, US says it failed and fell into the sea.

Jul 2006: North Korea test-fires a long-range Taepdong-2 missile; US said it failed shortly after take-off.