Secret Military Bases: DPRK Rocket Tests

Note: 13th in a series on North Korea
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North Korean Launch Pad and Engine Testing Stand in today’s news as seen in Google Earth

The BBC and CNN today both report that North Korea conducted tests of new first stage rocket engines in preparation for yet another major rocket launch. South Korea is getting rockets of its own and the North may feel threatened.

Indications, though, are that the tests are part of an ongoing preexisting program.

North Korea had a much publicized earlier attempt to launch an Earth orbiting satellite last April 13th. It failed miserably. It failed near or during first stage separation of a three stage Unha-3 rocket.

Today, the BBC and CNN missed important tidbits about the new tests in their generic reports.

Here is what you won’t hear much about on CNN or read in the New York Times on the latest tests…

38 North

Today’s news stories originated with a fascinating in-depth report published at 38 North:
North Korea Conducts Large Rocket Motor Test: Construction at Sohae Launch Pad
– 38 North, Nick Hansen, 11/13/2012

38 North is a North Korean analysis and watchdog web site maintained by the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS. SAIS is the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

38 North refers to the 38th parallel line that separates North and South Korea.

Reported at 38 North

Launch Pad – 9/28/12

Hansen interprets a series of satellite images supplied by DigitalGlobe to 38 North. They were taken from April 9th, 2012 to September 28th, 2012.

Hansen’s images were taken of two places separated by only 0.7 miles. The first is a ground engine test stand where the new test firings occurred. The other is the launch pad used for the much ballyhooed, but failed, April 13th Unha-3 rocket launch.

Hansen’s article is excellent. It has great images, analysis and is well worth your time. It is a great read. Most interesting of all is the upper gantry work shown at the launch pad. It is much higher than the Unha-3 rocket or any other rocket North Korea has ever tested. Bigger and better things are yet to come.

Not Reported at 38 North

Engine Test Stand with no fuel tanks – 3/20/2012

Engine Test Stand with 34 fuel tanks – 4/9/2012

It is noteworthy to mention the first image in Hansen’s article was taken 4 days BEFORE the ill-fated April Unha-3 launch. It proves that DPRK has been planning bigger rockets all along.

Normally, I usually have to do some sleuthing to locate these places. Not this time. I recognized both sites instantly. I’d already located and cataloged both on Google Earth before.

Almost spooky… I had published an article with images of both places on the very same day that the 1st satellite image in Hansen’s article was taken:
Find the Secret Korean Missile Base
– azleader, Inform the Pundits!, 4/9/2012

How’s that for timing?!

The most recent satellite images of both places on Google Earth were taken 3/20/2012… just 20 days before Hansen’s first image.

From it we learn that the 34 fuel tanks at the testing stand on April 9th had just been put there. They were not there 20 days earlier! They were gone by September 17th; presumably used for engine tests.

Another unmentioned possibility is some of the 34 tanks held propellant for the failed Unha-3 launch. The test stand is just a short distance down a road from the launch pad and the Unha-3 fuel could have been stored there just prior to fueling for launch.


Google Earth™ provides two simple, yet powerful, pieces of data for armchair sleuths:

  1. Scalable panoramic views of anywhere on Earth from space
  2. Views of those places on many different dates

It never ceases to amaze how much more you can learn about a news event with those two additional tidbits of data.

It can even add more to an expert’s in-depth analysis of satellite images of a North Korean rocket engine testing and launch facility.

Perhaps CNN, the BBC and the New York Times will figure that out some day.


About azleader

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

Posted on Nov 13, 2012, in culture, Life, news, North Korea, Opinion, Politics, Satellite images, Secret base, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You better never visit North Korea or even get close. I was in Arizona and missed some posts so I am catching up.

  1. Pingback: DPRK Back on Track for July 4th Nuke Test! | Inform The Pundits!

  2. Pingback: North Korea Surprise Satellite Launch | Inform The Pundits!

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