Satellite Watchers: North Korea Is Lying About Missile Launch
April 10th, 2012
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North Korea claims that itsÂ impending satellite launch, scheduled for this week, is merely a mission to study the countryâs âdistribution of forestsâ and weather patterns. But after analyzing the satelliteâs potential flight paths, a network of amateur and professional spaceflight specialists have concluded that Pyongyangâs claim is all but impossible. In order for the North Koreans to get a weather or observation satellite into the proper orbit, these experts say, Pyongyang would have to risk the early stages of its rockets dropping on its neighborsâ and alliesâ heads.
âI believe that the most reasonable interpretation is that they are lying about this being a satellite launch, which has beenÂ betrayed by the incompetence of their propagandists in over-reaching in their cover story,â longtime satellite watcher Ted Molczan noted on theÂ SeeSat listserv.
The Pyongyang regime has a long history of malarkey, of course. After its last satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-2 (Bright Star 2), plopped into the Pacific Ocean minutes after liftoff, North Korea swore that the thing was in orbit and transmitting âimmortal revolutionary paeansâ back to Earth. But this time, the debunking appears to be underway evenÂ beforeÂ the rocket takes off from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.
Shortly after announcing its latest launch, North KoreaÂ published the intended flight pathÂ of the rocket that would attempt to take the 1,000-kilogram Bright Star 3 satellite into space. As part of a standard warning to the regionâs shipping and airline companies â known as a ânotice to airmenâ or âNOTAMâ â Pyonyang said theÂ booster rocketÂ would fly due south, ejecting its first stage just west of South Korea and its second just east of the Philippines. âA safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries,â the state-run KCNA news serviceÂ promisedÂ on Mar. 16. Airlines are nowÂ re-routing their flightsÂ based on that North Korean warning.
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Contributed by Noah Shachtman of Danger Room.
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