North Korean Rocket Fails Mid-Air, Falls Into Sea
By Srinivas Laxman | Top News
April 13, 2012
Defying international appeals, North Korea went ahead and launched a rocket on Thursday, but it ended in failure.
AsianScientist (Apr. 13, 2012) – Defying international appeals, North Korea went ahead and launched a rocket on Thursday, but it ended in failure.
Just a day before the launch, the head of North Korea’s satellite control center, Paek Chang-ho, was quoted telling journalists: “We do not really care about the opinions from the outside. This is critical in order to develop our national economy.”
This was the fourth time in the last 12 years that North Korea’s space program has suffered a setback. On Thursday, the Unha-3 rocket was to place a 220-pound satellite in the polar orbit supposedly meant for studying crops and natural resources.
North Korea had made a similar effort in 1998, 2006, and 2009 and all of them failed with the rocket plunging into the sea instead of aiming towards the sky.
The launch on Thursday had a special significance because it was meant to coincide with the centenary celebrations of the birth of Kim Il-sung who established North Korea in 1948. His birthday falls on April 15.
The 105-feet three stage rocket lifted off from Tongchang-dong launch site carrying the satellite named Kwangmyongsong-3 which means Bright Star. The launch was witnessed by several mediapersons from all over the world who had been specially invited by the North Korean government.
Japan said North Korea had launched a “flying object” which fell into the ocean after a short flight.
“The flying object is believed to have flown for than one or two minutes and fell into the ocean. This does not affect our country’s territory at all,” a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Japan had earlier placed its missile defense systems in full alert. It had also deployed its naval destroyers.
Immediately after the launch, South Korea asked its residents staying near the North Korean border to seek shelter to protect themselves from any falling debris of the failed rocket.
The U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) officials that the system had detected and tracked the launch of the North Korean rocket on Thursday. They said that while the first stage fell into the sea 100 miles west of Seoul, the second and third stages failed.
An U.S. satellite is believed to have provided the initial data of the launch. U.S. Navy minesweepers and other ships in the area are expected to begin searching the waters for the rocket’s debris.
From the beginning the U.S. and Japan had expressed opposition to the launch, saying that it was nothing but a cover for a missile test. But North Korea dismissed this as baseless, saying that the rocket also carried a weather satellite thus proving that the mission had no military role at all.
According to former director of Asia Policy at the U.S. National Security Council, Victor Cha, the launch failure would be “terribly embarrassing for North Korea and was a blow to the birthday celebrations.” He was also quoted as saying that the next step could be a nuclear test by North Korea.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on October 9, 2006 and the second one on May 25, 2009.
The UN Security Council has convened a special session on Friday “to decide the next step” following the launch.
Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, has stated that his country was “troubled by the launch.” His statement assumes significance in the context of his country being a close ally of North Korea.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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