North Korea is reportedly preparing for its third attempt to launch a reconnaissance satellite this year, raising concerns due to the country’s weapons tests. Previous launch attempts on May 31 and August 24 ended in failures when the rockets crashed into the sea. This upcoming launch has prompted criticism from Japan and South Korea, who argue that it would violate a U.N. ban on North Korea’s missile development.
Since 1998, North Korea has launched six satellites, with two successfully reaching orbit. However, there is debate over whether these satellites transmitted any data. It is known that North Korea has used a three-stage rocket booster, similar to the Unha-3 model, for its previous launches. A new launch pad has been built for this upcoming launch, suggesting the use of a larger rocket.
In January 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed ambitions to develop military reconnaissance satellites and eventually place the North Korean flag on the moon. Analysts believe that the Chollima-1, the satellite to be launched, features a new design and possibly utilizes dual-nozzle liquid-fueled engines developed for Pyongyang’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea’s space program and defense activities have been regarded as its sovereign right. However, the United States and its allies consider these satellite tests to be clear violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit technology development applicable to North Korea’s ballistic missile programs.
If successful, these satellites could provide North Korea with improved intelligence capabilities and demonstrate its capability to keep up with other regional space powers. On one hand, it could enhance North Korea’s ability to target South Korea and Japan or conduct damage assessments during a conflict. On the other hand, if North Korea can verify that the United States and its allies are not planning an attack, it may help reduce tensions and provide stability in the region.
Overall, North Korea’s race for space continues to be a source of controversy and concern among the international community.