Kwangmyŏngsŏng program

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The Kwangmyŏngsŏng programme is a class of experimental satellites developed by North Korea. The name Kwangmyŏngsŏng (광명성 (光明星 "Bright Star" or "Brilliant Star" in Korean) is from a Chinese-language poem by Kim Il-sung. The first class of satellites built by Korea, the program started in the mid-1980s. There appears to have been at least four launch attempts.


According to North Korea Academy of Science's Academician Kwon Tong-hwa, the SLV was developed in the 1980s when late leader Kim Il-sung announced the decision to launch a North Korean satellite.

The decision to send a North Korean satellite was precipitated by the successful launching of South Korea's first satellite program, Uribyol-1, on August 10, 1992[1] and its second satellite, Uribyol 2, on September 26, 1993,[2] both by a European Ariane 4 SLV. In a late-1993 meeting of the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee, Kim Il-sung expressed his desire to quickly place a satellite into orbit, leading to the expansion of North Korea's nascent space program and the requirement for a space launch vehicle.

The Paektusan-1 SLV is the civilian version of the Taepodong 1 intermediate-range ballistic missile, with an additional spin-up solid motor orbital insertion third stage. The first and second stages of the SLV are made up of Nitric acid/UDMH liquid propellant rocket engines and the third spin-up orbital insertion stage of a solid propellant engine. The first stage consists of a No-Dong 1 MRBM, and is propelled by a single YF-2 engine from the Chinese DF-3 missile that burns for upwards to 95 seconds. The second stage is made of a Hwasong-6 SRBM, a derivative of the Scud-C, and burns for 171 seconds in two times. The third stage is derived from the Chinese HQ-2 booster, a spherical solid-propellant motor with a burn time of about 27 seconds. Attached to the third stage is the payload assembly, which has a length of 2.50 metres (8.2 ft).


Only five years later, preparations for the first satellite launch began at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility on August 7, 1998. Two weeks later, Korean People's Navy vessels proceeded to their mission area into the Sea of Japan. By that time, South Korea had already placed two other satellites into space with Delta-7925 SLVs: Koreasat 1 and Koreasat 2, on August 5, 1995, and on January 14, 1996, respectively.

The mission was planned with an initial evening launch window that was favorable for observation. After a weather forecast predicted heavy winds and rain on the evening of the first launch window in question, the decision was then taken to delay the launch until 12:07 when the weather had cleared.

Liftoff occurred on 31 August at 12:07 local time. The first stage was separated from the rocket 95 seconds after the launch. The fairing shroud separated 144 seconds after the launch, then the second stage separated itself from the rocket 266 seconds after the launch. North Korea claimed that the third stage put the satellite into orbit 27 seconds after the separation of the second stage.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command reported that the satellite failed to reach orbit, and burned up in the atmosphere.[3] The failure is believed to have occurred during the third stage burn.[4]

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il revealed that the country had spent approximately 200-300 million dollars for the satellite project during a summit with then-South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung in 2000.

First orbital launch attempt[edit]

Main article: Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1

The official Korean Central News Agency announced on September 4, 1998, Juche 87, that a satellite called Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 had been launched at 3:07 UTC on August 31 from a launch site in Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun, North Hamgyong Province by a Paektusan-1 satellite launch vehicle (SLV).[5] No objects were ever tracked in orbit from the launch,[4] and outside North Korea it is considered to have been a failure.[3]

Paektusan-2 test[edit]

In a very controversial series of missile tests conducted on the occasion of the United States' Independence Day on July 4, 2006, a Paektusan-2 SLV was launched for the first time according to Jane's Defence Weekly.[6] The DPRK did not report this test as an orbital attempt, but the internet edition of the Choson Sinbo, published on June 21, 2006, suggested that the payload of the Paektusan-2 SLV civilian version of the Taepodong 2C/3 ICBM could have been made of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 communication satellite, with a mass ranging from 170 to 550 kilograms (370 to 1,210 lb). Launched from the Musudan-ri launch center, the rocket failed after only 42 seconds.

Second orbital launch attempt[edit]

Main article: Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 was a satellite launched by North Korea on 5 April 2009. According to the North Korean government, an Unha-2 rocket carrying the satellite was launched on Sunday 5 April 2009 at 11:20 local time (02:20 UTC) from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground at Musudan-ri in northeastern North Korea.[7] However, officials in South Korea and the United States reported that the rocket and any payload had fallen into the Pacific Ocean.[8][9] The Russian Space Control concurred, stating that the satellite "simply is not there".[10][11]

Prior to the launch, concern was raised by other nations, particularly the United States, South Korea and Japan, that the launch might be a trial run of technology that could be used in the future to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.[12][13] The launch of the rocket was sharply condemned by the United States[14] and the European Union,[15] while the People's Republic of China[16] and Russia[17] urged restraint.

Third launch attempt[edit]

Main article: Kwangmyongsong-3

Kwangmyongsong-3 was a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite that North Korea tried to launch April 13, 2012 from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station at Cholsan County in northwestern North Korea. The satellite was to be lifted by a Unha-3 carrier rocket. The satellite launch was timed to coincide with the centenary of Kim Il-Sung's birth. The rocket broke up a minute after its launch and the remains fell into the ocean.

Fourth launch attempt[edit]

On December 1, 2012, the Korean Central News Agency said that the Korean Committee for Space Technology announced that it would launch a second version of Kwangmyongsong-3 to be lifted by a Unha-3 carrier rocket at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on a launch period between December 10 and December 22, 2012.

The launch was carried out on December 11, 2012 and the satellite entered orbit, as confirmed by monitoring agencies in South Korea and North America.

In popular culture[edit]

The satellite Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 has since featured prominently in North Korean festivities and celebrations such as the mass games. Commemorative stamps showing the real shape of the satellite still attached to the spin up solid motor orbital insertion third stage and more than two orbits have also been printed on several occasions.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "KITSAT-OSCAR 23 aka KITSAT-A". AMSAT. 2002-01-02. Retrieved March 15, 2009. 
  2. ^ "KITSAT-OSCAR 25 (KITSAT-2)". AMSAT. 2003-05-31. Retrieved March 15, 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Calls North Korean Rocket a Failed Satellite". New York Times. 1998-09-15. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  4. ^ a b Wade, Mark. "Kwangmyongsong 1". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  5. ^ "Successful launch of first satellite in DPRK". KCNA. 1998-09-04. Retrieved 2014-01-12. 
  6. ^ "Jane’s Defence Weekly Examines North Korea’s Preparations for an Imminent Missile Launch". Jane's Information Group. 2009-02-20. Retrieved February 26, 2009. [dead link]
  7. ^ "TEXT-N.Korea says it successfully launched satellite | Reuters". 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  8. ^ North Korea space launch 'fails', BBC News, 5 April 2009
  9. ^ "NORAD and USNORTHCOM monitor North Korean launch". United States Northern Command. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Russian space control: DPRK satellite not placed in orbit". Xinhua News Agency. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  11. ^ "UN Security Council split over North Korean ‘satellite’ launch". Russia Today. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  12. ^ Kim, Jack (2009-03-25). "FACTBOX: North Korea's Taepodong-2 long-range missile". REUTERS. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  13. ^ "Japan OKs deployment of missile defense system". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2009-03-29. [dead link]
  14. ^ Obama Condemns North Korea Launch, Calls for Nuclear Free World, Voice of America, April 5, 2009
  15. ^ EU condemns launch, China urges calm, Brisbane Times, April 5, 2009
  16. ^ China urges calm after North Korea rocket launch, Reuters, April 5, 2009
  17. ^ Russia urges calm after North Korea rocket launch, Reuters, April 5, 2009
  18. ^ "朝鲜6月18日发行胡锦涛、温家宝等中国领导人的邮票". 其乐邮币卡网. 2004-06-16. Retrieved September 19, 2008. 
  19. ^ "北朝鮮のミサイル、テポドン発射記念切手". 三○七商店会. 2004-06-16. Retrieved September 19, 2008. 

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