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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Taep'o-dong 1 (TD-1)

By (c) Charles P. Vick, 1999-07, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



The opinions and evaluations stated here in are only the author’s and cannot be construed to reflect those of any Government agency, company, institute or association. It is based on public information, circumstantial evidence, informed speculation, declassified U.S. intelligence community documents, official Iranian, Pakistani and North Korean government documents and histories, oral histories, interviews and engineering analysis. As with all data regarding the Iranian, Pakistani and North Korean strategic space and ballistic missile programs, this analysis is subject to revision--and represents a work in progress.

Taep'o-dong 1 (TD-1), Paekdosan-1, North Korea

North Korea has successfully developed a missile variously designated the Taep'o-dong-1 or Paekdosan-l, (TD-l), NKSL-l*, Scud Mod-E, and Scud-X. The first designation, which is accepted in the U.S. intelligence community, is used here.

Unha-1/Sahir-1B and Taep'o-dong-1

Though Taep'o-dong-1 did use the Scud-B propellants in its No-dong-A first stage it definitely used a Scud-ER varient as its second stage with step-throttle capability the so called DPRK design for the Unha-1 was and is the Iranian Safir-1, 1B class booster using Scud-C and Qiam-1 propellants as discussed below. The signifience is that Iran has managed to transition to a more capable propellant combination than that used in the No-dong-A series.

Both the Scud-C and the Qian-1 and Safir-1, 1B launch vehicles have successfully transitioned from the Scud-B propellants as noted from Soviet manuals which is TM-185 20% Gasoline, 80% Kerosene while its oxidizer is believed to be AK-27I 27% N2O4 + 73% HNO3 with Iodium inhibitor Nitrogen Tetroxide & Nitric Acid. The new propellant combination for the single stage Scud-C and Qiam-1 as they are known from Soviet Naval references manuals to be Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) while its oxidizer is known to be a derivation of Inhibited Red Fuming or white fuming nitric Acid (IRFNA), (73% Inhibited Red Fuming nitric Acid (IRFNA) & 27% N204 = AK-27S).

On 31 August 1998, without any advance warning, North Korea launched a space booster —apparently based on the Taep ’o-dong-I ballistic missile —from a missile test launch pad in eastern North Korea near Taep ’o-dong also known as Musudan-ri. The launched vehicle was a two-stage ballistic missile, with a spin stabilized solid propellant third stage added. Its No-dong-A derived booster first stage fell into the Sea of Japan 25.3 kilometers down range from the launch facility after a 94-95 second burn 19.5 kilometers down range at an altitude of 35.9 kilometers. It ’s Scud-B, Sam-2 two step throttled engine derived second-stage burned for 166 seconds total with a total flight active time of 171-172 seconds impacted in the Pacific Ocean waters off the Sanriku, Japanese coast some 1,464 kilometers down range. The payload shroud separated at 144-145 seconds of flight had impacted 1,100 kilometers down range from the launch site. On 4 September, 1998 North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that the launch had placed an artificial satellite into an elliptical orbit ranging from 218.82 to 6,978.2 kilometers above the Earth with a period of 165 minutes 6 seconds at an apparent inclination of 40.217 degrees. The two stage Teap ’o-dong-1 ballistic missile had first been imaged by the United States during February 1994 but the surprise was the introduction of a third stage to the Paekdosan-1 launch vehicle.

Unha-1, Taep'o-dong-1

No tracking data indicated that such an object as the one claimed by North Korea ever attained a sustained orbit around the Earth. Circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that the satellite achieved orbital velocity before it was destroyed when its solid propellant third stage ruptured catastrophically after 25 second of it 27 second burn time to burn out with its debris impacting some 2,973 kilometers down range. The affect of the solid motor rupture was to de-orbit the less than 50 kilogram satellite even though it attained an altitude of 239.2 kilometers with an orbital velocity of 8.98 kilometers/second. This third stage solid motor was almost certainly derived from and identifiable Chinese spacecraft solid motor.

The missile configuration was a NKSL-1, a three stage variant of the two-stage Taep'o-dong-1. This attempt revealed considerable detail about the launch vehicle's performance. The TD-1 has two stages (with an estimated range of 2,000-2,200 km) or three stages (with a range of either 2,200-2,672 or 2,200-2,896 km) and a warhead estimated at 700-1,000 (650-1,100) kilograms – comparable performance to the Soviet SS-4. The vehicle's first stage consists of a modified No-dong-A and a second stage based on the North Korean Scud-B and SAM-2 missile technology. If a third stage is present, it consists of a small spherical/ellipsoidal solid motor of the type that was used in the August 1998 launch attempt. This launcher appears to be less capable in performance than the French Diamond-A satellite launcher.

In early November 1998 US intelligence informed the Japanese government that North Korea might be preparing to launch another Taep ’o-dong missile. An object thought to be a No-dong-A missile [which could become a Taep ’o-dong after assembly], was loaded onto a truck that exited a missile manufacturing plant in a suburb of Pyongyang. The truck was destined for a launch site.

The next flight of the Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-1 improved TD-1A derivative launch vehicle may take place in Iran. From February through April 1999 static test firings of the Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-1 (then re-designated the Shahab-4/Taep ’o-dong-1A) booster engines were scheduled to take place in Iran but nothing came of it. This would follow a familiar pattern. Following the introduction of the No-dong-A with one flight test by North Korea, it was subsequently flight tested both in Iran as the Shahab-3, 3A and the flight tests of the Ghauri-II of Pakistan. Both are officially recognized by the DoD as No-dong-A missile system copies. This same testing procedure will probably manifest itself once again in Iran for the TD-1A. Iran will flight test after the one North Korea test already conducted. After over seven year and the TD-1A having not yet appearing in Iran certainly tells us that Iran took a different direction in the space effort from the ballistic missile effort. However recent test and discussions may have re-germinated the concept though revised for a home gown Iran satellite launch vehicle launch attempt.

In the meanwhile, modifications to the Taep’o-dong-l launch facility were completed in the fall of 1998 and spring 1999 to make it capable of accommodating flight testing of the Taep'o-dong-2 class booster. These modifications are the primary reason why the U.S. intelligence community stated in the spring of 1999 that North Korea was ready to flight-test the Taep'o-dong-2.

In 2003, the Defense Intelligence Agency stated that "We continue to assess that Pyongyang may be ready to test the Taep’o-dong-2 (TD-2), perhaps as a space launch vehicle, and perhaps in another country, with little advance warning. A flight test of a shorter range missile also is possible at any time.” (1)

"We have no information to suggest Pyongyang intends to deploy the Taep’o-dong-1 (TD-1) as a surface-to-surface missile in North Korea . We believe instead that the vehicle was a test bed for multi-stage missile technologies." (1)

* NKSL-1 is an unofficial designation created by Charles P. Vick. The NKSL-1 is a Taep'odong-1 missile with a third stage and satellite added.


1. Engine boat tail uses flared skirt to accommodate high altitude larger exit diameter nozzle. Thrust altitude increased from original sea level thrust of 13,380 kg f.

2. ~ - approximate estimation


1. Reply by the Defense Intelligence Agency to the Senate intelligence committee on PDF page 8 of http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2003_hr/021103qfr-dia.pdf dated 30 June 2003 :

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Page last modified: 06-11-2012 12:27:32 ZULU