North Korean Military Satellite Launch Fails

North Korean Military Satellite Launch Fails

North Korea’s attempt to launch a second military reconnaissance satellite into orbit today failed. Video of the rocket exploding during ascent was captured by Japan’s NHK television and North Korea acknowledged the failure. [Updated May 30 with State Department reaction.]

North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the failure of the Malligyong 1-1 reconnaissance satellite launch (which others refer to as Malligyong 2) on a new type of rocket from the Sohae launch site.

“The launch failed due to the air blast of the new-type satellite carrier rocket during the first-stage flight the vice-general of the NATA said,” referring to North Korea’s National Aerospace Technology Administration. The “cause of the accident is attributable to the reliability of operation of the newly developed liquid oxygen + petroleum engine, adding that other causes will be examined.”

North Korea had notified Japan that it would launch a satellite between May 27 and June 4 since the trajectory would take it over Japan.  Japan condemned the launch, which violates U.N. sanctions, and demanded it be cancelled.

Japan’s NHK news service posted video of the explosion on X.

North Korea launched the Chollima-1 rocket with the Malligyong-1 military reconnaissance satellite in November 2023, but the language in today’s KCNA release suggested this might be a different variant of the rocket.

The United States condemned the November 2023 launch as it has all of North Korea’s satellite launches since they violate United Nations restrictions on North Korean launches of ballistic missiles, which are close cousins of satellite launch vehicles.

The U.S. State Department did make a public statement about this failed satellite launch until May 30 following North Korea’s launch of 10 ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan on May 29. The press release condemed both actions  “in the strongest terms.”

North Korea successfully orbited two earth observation satellites in 2012 and 2016 respectively, but two attempts to launch military reconnaissance satellites failed in May and August 2023.

The November 2023 success came after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was a guest of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Russia’s Vostochny launch site in Siberia. Multiple news sources reported that the visit was part of an exchange between Putin, who wanted North Korean munitions to fight the war in Ukraine, and Kim, who was seeking technical assistance to launch satellites.

Kim said at the end of 2023 that he planned to launch three military reconnaissance satellites in 2024.  What effect today’s failure will have on those plans is unclear.

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