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Earth Observation

Earth Observation Weather & ERTS Satellite Missions

© By Charles P. Vick (All Rights Reserved)

Senior Technical Analyst,


For years going back to 1989 The DPRK was and is known to be working on duel purpose civil and primarily military Communications satellites as well as ERTS and Weather satellites. So far the record is three failed satellite launches involving several types of communications satellites.

The North Korean space satellite industry is new with little identified about it publicly. Several years ago it was suggested that North Korea intended to launch a communications satellite in addition to a weather satellite and ERTS earth resources satellite. The development of these systems and technology was likely a product of both internal research and development and international cooperation, with Iran among others.

The fact that North Korea was committed as of 2009 to this type of satellite development rather than manned space flight or space research suggested to observers that the space program was a cover for missile development for other purposes, or other dual civilian-military purposes. A desire for complete autonomy was also suggested. Regional allies and friendly neighbors such as the Russians and Chinese could easily have provided communications, weather and ERTS satellite technology or services. In a country with strictly rationed power, communications were not seen as a major priority for the population at large.

North Korea claimed 27 May 2016 that it officially registered its satellite, Kwangmyongsong-4, with the United Nations. Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the North submitted paperwork to the UN for the registration of the satellite, which the regime claimed it launched using a long-range rocket on February seventh. The launch came in defiance of international warnings.

The KCNA claimed that the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs(UNOOSA) issued the documents concerning the registration of the Kwangmyongsong-4 and posted them on its Web site and the UN electronic archive. The Kwangmyongsong-4 is largely considered a cover for testing a long-range missile. It was known to have sent out a signal once after it was put into orbit, but that no additional signals were detected since February tenth.

In order for the satellite to be an earth-observing one as the North has claimed, it needs to have a constant contact with a control center on earth. Lee Chun-keun, a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, said the UN acknowledges only the fact that the Kwangmyongsong-4 is circling in an orbit, adding that it's only the North's claim that the satellite performs proper communications.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2016 17:12:55 ZULU