Kwangmyŏngsŏng program

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Kwangmyŏngsŏng program
Hangul 광명성
Hanja 光明星
Revised Romanization Gwang Myeong-seong
McCune–Reischauer Kwangmyŏngsŏng
IPA [ɡwaŋ.mjəŋ.səŋ]

The Kwangmyŏngsŏng programme is a class of experimental satellites developed by North Korea. The name Kwangmyŏngsŏng ("Bright Star" or "Brilliant Star" in Korean) is from a poem written by Kim Il-sung. The first class of satellites built by North Korea, the program started in the mid-1980s. There have been five launches so far, of which two have been successful.


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, 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.

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).[3] No objects were ever tracked in orbit from the launch,[4] and outside North Korea it is considered to have been a failure.[5]

The North American Aerospace Defense Command reported that the satellite failed to reach orbit, and burned up in the atmosphere.[5] 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.

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.[6] However, officials in South Korea and the United States reported that the rocket and any payload had fallen into the Pacific Ocean.[7][8] The Russian Space Control concurred, stating that the satellite "simply is not there".[9][10]

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.[11][12] The launch of the rocket was sharply condemned by the United States[13] and the European Union,[14] while the People's Republic of China[15] and Russia[16] urged restraint.

Third launch attempt[edit]

Main article: Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-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.

Fifth launch attempt[edit]

Main article: Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4

Kwangmyongsong-4 or KMS-4 is an earth observation satellite launched by North Korea on 7 February 2016.

On February 7, 2016, roughly a month after an alleged hydrogen bomb test, North Korea claimed to have put a satellite into orbit around the Earth. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had warned the North to not launch the rocket, and if it did and the rocket violated Japanese territory, it would be shot down. Nevertheless, North Korea launched the rocket anyway, claiming the satellite was purely intended for peaceful, scientific purposes. Several nations, including the United States, Japan, and South Korea, have criticized the launch, and despite North Korean claims that the rocket was for peaceful purposes, it has been heavily criticized as an attempt to perform an ICBM test under the guise of a peaceful satellite launch. China also criticized the launch, however urged "the relevant parties" to "refrain from taking actions that may further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula".[17]

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. Archived from the original on January 21, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Successful launch of first satellite in DPRK". KCNA. 1998-09-04. Retrieved 2014-01-12. 
  4. ^ a b Wade, Mark. "Kwangmyongsong 1". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "U.S. Calls North Korean Rocket a Failed Satellite". New York Times. 1998-09-15. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  6. ^ "TEXT-N.Korea says it successfully launched satellite | Reuters". 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  7. ^ North Korea space launch 'fails', BBC News, 5 April 2009
  8. ^ "NORAD and USNORTHCOM monitor North Korean launch". United States Northern Command. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  9. ^ "Russian space control: DPRK satellite not placed in orbit". Xinhua News Agency. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  10. ^ "UN Security Council split over North Korean 'satellite' launch". Russia Today. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  11. ^ Kim, Jack (2009-03-25). "FACTBOX: North Korea's Taepodong-2 long-range missile". REUTERS. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  12. ^ "Japan OKs deployment of missile defense system". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2009-03-29. [dead link]
  13. ^ Obama Condemns North Korea Launch, Calls for Nuclear Free World, Voice of America, April 5, 2009
  14. ^ EU condemns launch, China urges calm, Brisbane Times, April 5, 2009
  15. ^ China urges calm after North Korea rocket launch, Reuters, April 5, 2009
  16. ^ Russia urges calm after North Korea rocket launch, Reuters, April 5, 2009
  17. ^ "North Korea fires long-range rocket despite warnings". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 
  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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