Space Cadets - The Korean Peninsula's Rocket Competition

Journal Articles

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Jane's Intelligence Review


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CISAC's Lew Franklin and his coauthor, Nick Hansen, contributed the latter half of a two-part article discussing the Korean peninsula's space programme competition. The beginning of their section of the article is highlighted in the attached document.

(Excerpt) South Korea's space programme has not developed in isolation. As Seoul has moved through guided missile development, satellite production and soon an SLV launch, North Korea has pursued a similar path towards the prestigious goal of the first indigenous Korean satellite launch.

Although more rapid, North Korea's programme has been less successful. Three SLV launches have failed to place a satellite into orbit, despite official claims to the contrary. The most recent launch, of the Unha-2 SLV on 5 April, failed in the third stage and fell into the Pacific Ocean, failing to place the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite into orbit.

Much media attention surrounding these launches has concentrated on the possibility of such technology being used for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Unha-2, with its relatively large first stage draws suspicion of a long-predicted ICBM, but the absence of a militarized launcher or re-entry vehicle/warhead testing programme suggests that this vehicle and both launch pads are primarily for satellite launches at this time, with the added benefit of dual-use military rocket technology spin-off. Analysis of commercial high-resolution satellite imagery, North Korean-released video of two of its three launches and public announcements on space activities suggests that North Korea is currently focused on SLV and satellite development; Pyongyang remains eager to pursue a space programme for the nationalistic, commercial and military benefits, probably including military space.

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