North Korea Satellite Launch Ends in Failure Due to Suspected Engine Problem

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A projectile which was launched from direction of Tongchang-ri, North Korea, and exploded mid-flight.

SEOUL/WASHINGTON — North Korea on Monday launched the Malligyong-1-1, a military reconnaissance satellite, but the first stage of the rocket exploded mid-flight due to a problem with the newly-developed engine, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported.

According to the report, the National Aerospace Technology Administration (NATA) in Pyongyang had loaded the satellite onto a new type of satellite carrier rocket and launched it from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, northwestern North Korea.

The Japanese government on Monday announced that North Korea had launched a projectile using ballistic missile technology from near Tongchang-ri at around 10:43 p.m., and that it had vanished over the Yellow Sea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that numerous debris had been detected over the Yellow Sea near the North Korean coast at around 10:46 p.m. on Monday, and that the satellite had blown up in midair.

NATA said that engine failure is the current suspected cause of the explosion but also said, “other possible causes of the problem will also be investigated.”

This marks the fourth attempted launch of a military reconnaissance satellite by North Korea, and the first since the Malligyong-1 in November. It also marks the third failure following previous launches on May 31 and Aug. 24 last year.

North Korea had previously revealed its intention to launch three military reconnaissance satellites by the end of the year, with Monday’s launch being the first. Experts pointed out that it will take several months to deal with the issues raised by the explosion, and this will possibly affect the project.

“We recognize that [North Korea] tried to launch a satellite but failed,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi at a press conference Tuesday morning. “This launch included, [North Korea’s] nuclear and missile development violates United Nations Security Council resolutions.” The Japanese government lodged a protest with North Korea via its embassy in Beijing.

Regarding North Korea’s intention to launch three satellites by the end of the year, Hayashi said, “there is a possibility that North Korea will continue to pursue satellite launches. We will continue to collect and analyze information in cooperation with the United States, South Korea and other countries, as well as do our best to monitor the situation.”

The South Korean government issued a statement saying, “regardless of whether the launch of a satellite is a success or a failure, it is a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and an act of provocation which threatens international peace and safety.”

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch “raises tensions, and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond … the U.S. commitment to homeland defense and the defense of [South Korea] and Japan remains ironclad.”