North Korea's Next Spy Satellite Faces Major Setback

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.28 - 2024 1:04 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
North Korea's failed spy satellite launch was caused by engine problems.

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South Korea's military has reported that North Korea's recent failed attempt to launch a spy satellite was caused by engine combustion problems.

This setback is expected to delay Pyongyang's next launch considerably.

Rocket Engine Troubles

On May 28, a North Korean rocket carrying the Malligyong-1-1 spy satellite exploded shortly after liftoff from the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in South Korea attributed the failure to issues with the "liquid oxygen plus petroleum" engine, a new type of propulsion system used in the rocket.

An official from North Korea's national aerospace agency acknowledged the failure, citing an "air blast" during the first-stage flight, as reported by Yonhap.

"Contrary to their prompt follow-up launch plans after the first attempt in May, this time North Korea has only offered a preliminary conclusion. This suggests that rectifying the issues might take considerable time," a JCS official explained to the media.

North Korea's Satellite Plans

This delay will affect North Korea's broader plans to launch three more spy satellites into orbit this year.

In November, Pyongyang successfully placed its first military spy satellite into orbit after two previous failures in May and August. However, South Korea's Defense Minister Shin Won-sik indicated that the Malligyong-1 spy satellite appears to be inactive despite being in orbit.

Following the recent launch failure, the JCS detected "multiple fragments" of the rocket in North Korean waters, indicating a catastrophic failure during the first stage of the flight. Further analysis is required to determine the precise cause of the engine combustion issues.

There is also speculation about potential technological assistance from Russia. While the JCS official did not rule out the possibility that Russia supplied the first-stage rocket, more analysis is needed to ascertain the extent of Moscow's involvement.

This comes in the context of deepening cooperation between North Korea and Russia, following a rare meeting between their leaders in September.

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