Melissa HanhamDPRK Announcement of Rocket Launch

North Korea announced to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that they intend to launch a satellite into orbit between 8-25 February. Martyn Williams got the docs straight from the IMO and was kind enough to share. The doc looks similar to their 2012 announcements, and while there is wiggle room for weather, it’s likely they are “aiming” to launch in celebration of Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16th. All eyes are on Sohae and its new refurbished facilities.

I compared the splash down zones in this announcement with the April and December 2012 ones. There’s not much variation, which leads me to believe they intend to use the Unha-3 or something very similar. It’s possible they will use a slightly heavier payload or more fuel. Looks like they are determined to get Kwangmyongsong into a steady orbit.

April 2012 (white), December 2012 (yellow), February 2016 (Red).

The wonk in me wanted to see if they would trot out a newer bigger missile. We’ve been on tenterhooks since they extended the height of the gantry tower. Guess we will have to wait for the next “special delivery” with love from North Korea.

UPDATE: North Korea has moved up the launch date to 7-14 February, putting it squarely in China’s largest annual holiday. Tsk tsk tsk…


  1. John Hallam (History)

    Of course, there will be security council resolutions next time the US or Russia or for that matter China, India or Pakistan launches something….is there something I’m just not getting???

    • Bruce Klingner (History)

      US, Russia, China, et. al. are not precluded by numerous UN Security resolutions from conducting any launch using ballistic missile technology. North Korea is.

    • keve (History)

      NoKorea is not signatory to the resolution. 5 member Self-elected Permanent UN Security Councils do not represent the international community, nor could they make International Rule of Law. Therefore, resolutions are legally non- binding, and NoKorea does not have to abide by the resolutions/sanctions which it never signed up to. Those who signed up to the sanctions are obligated which are the 5 “Self-Elected” Permanent Security Councils(Table of 5-Kims) and 10 veto-less/choice-less elected security council members; this is certainly not democratic organization. NoKorea is not breaking any International Law. Non-elected 5-member Permanent Member do NOT represent UN/International Community which has requested to disband Permanent UN Security Council Members.

    • Mark Brueschke (History)

      Yes, you are missing that there are four UNSC resolutions on this matter since 2006.

      Security Council Resolution 1718

      Security Council Resolution 1874

      Security Council Resolution 2087

      Security Council Resolution 2094

  2. keve (History)

    Resolution(s) do not trump Space Treaty which is legally binding, and NoKorea is signatory of. North Korea never agreed to nor signed up to any UN Security Council resolution(s)/sanction(s) against NoKorea. This is very similar to US position to any UN calls against US which made very clear to the international community that no UN calls or rules trump US laws in US and rights of US as sovereign state. This right is universal regardless of politic differences, where citizen’s voice and choice decide the faith of their own nation, regardless of those outside non-citizens views; thus every nation has the rights to defend themselves from dictation from outside non-citizens of their state. When rights of sovereign state are deliberately ignored and segregated, nations will only promote proliferation of nuclear technology to defend and to protect their voice and choice within their own country from those who does not even reside in the country. Clearly dictatorship is not welcomed but especially not from outside, non-citizens. Sanctions only have helped the conservative population and politicians in NoKorea to unite the nation under their own political views while silencing the liberal population and politicians in NoKorea. Sanctions are always counter-productive and compromises security and safety of both, US and NoKorean, populations. At best, sanctions have served as preemptive plan for war later.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Nice to hear the North Koreans are reading ACW.

    • keve (History)

      ACW is among the very few professional website, in US, which distinguish itself from mass media outlets echoing rumors and political views against NoKorea. I hope the logic behind my comments hold true whether one used “US” in place of “NoKorea” or vise verse, and hope counterpoint views do not lead to labeling or questioning one’s race, nationality, religion, etc…….

  3. J_kies (History)

    When trying to discern intent; the clearest means comes from whether the launch is efficient for placing objects on orbit or applies only those technologies necessary for an ICBM. As a clone of the 12/12/2012 event, yet again, only ICBM technologies are involved.

    • Gregory Matteson (History)

      I would be curious to hear from you exactly how you determine “only ICBM technologies are involved.” Setting an orbit, as far as I can tell, involves an entirely different trajectory and guidance problem from an ICBM, and the staging is different to obtain orbital velocity. Other than that large rockets are large rockets. In a satellite launch there is no testing of re-entry technology or targeting on the surface of the earth, which are crucial to a “useful” missile. I think explanation, beyond assertion, is called for.

    • Stephen Young (History)

      Please elaborate, J_Kies. This analysis and ours says it looks like satellite launch rather than ICBM.

  4. Chris (History)

    It would be helpful if “keve” were to read the Charter of the United Nations, a treaty to which 193 states are party, the DPRK among them. In doing so he might wish to pay particular attention to Article 25.

    He might also be interested to note that under the U.S. Constitution, treaties to which the U.S. is a party rank first, acts of Congress rank second.

    • keve (History)

      Majority UN members endorsed “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” articles, especially Article 30, overrides the 5 self-elected Permanent Member Security Council endorsed article 25. I believe Universal-Majority UN members’ votes and endorsements override the 5 member self-elected Security Council privileges.

  5. Marco (History)

    Like in 2012, given the launch azimuth the aim is clearly for a satellite launch into a polar, and likely sun-synchronous orbit, the kind or orbit typical for remote sensing satellites. See my thoughts here (including some speculation on the launch time):

  6. ybutt (History)
  7. John Hallam (History)

    Yes. Of course I’m aware that there are security council resolutions prohibiting the DPRK from space launches, and that there are no such resolutions prhibiting anyone else either from space launches, or from carrying out straightfoward ICBM tests that dont pretend to be anything else – whether of Minuteman, Topol, Bulava, Agni, or Ghauri (which is anyway a Nodong).


    There are no UNSC resolutions prohibitng anyone else to launch.

    There is no hue – and – cry when anyone else DOES launch. (and that applies to launches that are NOT space launches but unambiguous tests of nuclear weapons delivery systems that dont pretend to be anything else.

    Russia and the US retain the ability to make the plant uninhabitable in around an hour.

    Nobody seems to notice.

    The DPRK does something (which is as likely as not to blow up on the launch pad or otherwise fail) and everyone blowviates.

    The hypocrisy is sickening.

  8. Anon2 (History)

    “ACW is among the very few professional website, in US, which distinguish itself from mass media outlets echoing rumors and political views against NoKorea. ”

    And it use to be more fun with strong technical discussions going back and forth.

    Unfortunately for this website Jeffrey now posts on better paying sites, and we are consigned mostly long videos called “podcasts” that don’t have a transcript, and hence have a lower amount of seeding of these discussions among the experts lurking in our midst.

    I would welcome, for example, a technical discussion on how the surrounding countries might defend against a rogue DPRK missile with a possible WMD payload. Japan has already announced deployment of AEGIS. As Mike Meyers would say on Coffee Talk … discuss …

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      Agreed. 1) ACW needs an unpaid replacement for Jeffrey. Any volunteers?

      2) The podcasts need a transcript. If ACW can’t afford transcriptions, have some intern write up a summary of important points. Most of us can read faster than people talk.

      3) Adopt Jeffrey’s free-for-all automatic posting. If you got onto Jeffrey’s trusted list, your comments got posted instantly. No need for laborious censorship, or waiting one or two or three days to see whether your perfectly decent comment might or might not get posted.

  9. JO (History)

    Perhaps the most expansive NK launch video to come out yet. Views of the inside and out of new launch control room.

    • Melissa Hanham (History)

      The first clip is of a 2012 launch. You can see they haven’t renovated the pad or gantry yet.