Korean Rocket Suffers 2nd Stage Failure

Note: 5th in a series on North Korea
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London’s Financial Times reports in today’s edition that debris from North Korea’s failed satellite launch splashed down in the Yellow Sea 102 miles west of Seoul, South Korea.

If that is true then the satellite launch was off course by about 70 miles when it failed at first stage separation and 2nd stage engine ignition.

The Evidence

Expected fight path of Unha-3 rocket. Green dot shows expected 1st stage splashdown point

This is a Google Earth model showing the expected early flight path of North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket.

The Unha-3 is North Korea’s most sophisticated rocket yet. Its a three-stage rocket that was supposed to put a “weather” satellite into earth orbit.

Prior to launch, this Google Earth model was made by Lew Franklin and Dick Donald at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

You can download and viewed the model for yourself with GE:
Download Google Earth Unha-3 Rocket Flight Path file (KMZ)

Using Google Earth, you can easily measure that the expected splash down point of the 1st stage in a normal launch was expected to be about 175 miles (282 kilometers) due west of Seoul, South Korea.

The Financial Times(FT) reports debris actually splashed down only about 102 miles (165 kilometers) west of Seoul.

The FT report that the debris landed due west of Seoul supports the theory that there was a catastrophic failure at 2nd stage ignition.

It destroyed the rocket. Then the debris followed a normal trajectory back down into the Yellow Sea… putting it due west of Seoul.


Though a bit off course the Unha-3 launch was proceeding normally until its catastrophic failure at 2nd stage separation.

Though a failure, its not as big a failure as western experts might like it to be. North Korea has successfully launched many two story missiles successfully and will surely be able to rebuild and try again.

This failure was far more successful than the early days of the U.S. space program when spectacular failures were more common than successes.

For North Korea it is a matter of national pride and honoring its past leaders to try again.

North Korea can, and will try. Next time they will likely be successful.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Apr 13, 2012, in culture, Life, news, North Korea, Politics, science, Thoughts, Tongchang-dong, unha-3. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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