Sunday, April 05, 2009

North Korea fails again

The Kwangmyongsong 2 satellite - assuming it does, in fact, exist as the payload of North Korea's second orbital launch attempt - is in the Pacific somewhere past Japan. Aimed at Low Earth Orbit (LEO), it appears to have joined its predecessor in UEO (Underwater Earth Orbit).
The North Koreans made it further than on their first attempt. This three-stage booster appears to have arced over Japan, separated from the first stage successfully, and then fallen prey to an underperforming second stage.
North Korean government, of course, claims the satellite is in orbit and successfully transmitting data.
There is a lot of debate about whether this was a satellite launch or a missile test. It seems highly likely it was both. A satellite would be a prestigious accomplishment, worth the effort in the government's eyes, and it could have been accomplished while testing an IRBM with a modified third stage and a satellite payload.
The scary thing is that NK was warned by absolutely everyone, including its sort-of-patron China, not to do this, and they did it anyway, and nothing is going to happen to them. Sanctions are meaningless against a nation whose rulers are starving their people to death.
The sad thing is that, had NK come out from under its cloak of Stalinism and started acted like a civilized nation, South Korea would have been more than happy to work with them on a real civil space program.

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