North Korea has informed Japan of its intention to launch a rocket carrying a space satellite between November 22 and December 1. This would mark Pyongyang’s third attempt this year to put a military spy satellite into orbit, following two previous failures.
The North Korean space program began on August 31, 1998, when the country launched the Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite on a Paektusan rocket from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground. Although Pyongyang claimed it was a success, U.S. officials reported that it broke up over the Pacific Ocean.
On April 5, 2009, then-leader Kim Jong Il oversaw the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite, which failed and crashed into the ocean. State media claimed that 14 North Korean soldiers were killed during the launch.
The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was launched on April 13, 2012, from the newly completed Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Foreign media were invited to observe the launch, but it, too, ended in failure.
However, on December 12, 2012, North Korea successfully launched a second version of the Kwangmyongsong-3, putting an object into orbit. While they claimed it was an observation satellite, it is widely believed to lack a functioning transmission system.
In April 2013, North Korea established the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) to pursue space exploration for peaceful purposes.
Over the years, North Korea has conducted several missile tests, including an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) test in 2017 that had the potential to reach the continental United States. They have also expressed a desire to develop military reconnaissance satellites.
Recently, on May 31, 2023, North Korea attempted to launch a reconnaissance satellite, but the rocket failed and fell into the sea. South Korea’s military retrieved the wreckage and found that it had no meaningful military use.
Despite these setbacks, North Korea remains determined to advance its space program. They notified Japan of their plan to launch another satellite between November 22 and December 1, 2023. It remains to be seen if they will achieve success this time.