The only reported launch of a Paektusan was conducted at 03:07 GMT on 31 August 1998, with the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 satellite. Although North Korea claimed that the launch was successful, no objects were tracked in orbit, and the United States government claimed that the rocket's third stage failed. Subsequent North Korean orbital launch attempts have used the Taepodong-2 derived Unha rocket, and it is unclear whether the Paektusan is still in service. On this launch, the designation Paektusan-1 was used, however it is unclear whether this was a serial number, or part of the rocket's designation. According to experts North Korea spent approximately $20 million test-firing the Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, and experts guess it cost more this time since performance and capabilities including the airframe and range of the Taepodong-2 missile have been improved by more than 10 percent since the rocket fizzled ignominiously in a test in 2006.
In a nominal launch, the first stage burns for 95 seconds, before separating, and landing about 250 kilometres (160 mi) downrange. The payload fairing separates 144 seconds after launch. This is followed by the depletion and separation of the second stage, 266 seconds into the flight, resulting in an impact about 1,650 kilometres (1,030 mi) downrange. The third stage, which is spin-stabilised, then burns for 27 seconds to insert the payload into Earth orbit.