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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2), NKSL-X-2

The North KoreanTaep-o-dong-2B/Unha-3 revised booster that sports a new liquid propellant third stage apparently derived from Unha-1 booster design.

Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2), NKSL-X-2

By (c) Charles P. Vick, 1999-04, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

3-20-07/11-5-12, 4-2-2013


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.

The Taep'o-dong-2 (TD-2) which was first imaged in its two stage mock-up form during February 1994 was said to be a two or three stage missile with a range estimated at approximately 3,650-3,750 km with a 700-1,000 (650-1,100) kilograms payload. Other sources credit the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** with a range in excess of 4,000-4,300 km. North Korea has given various names to the Taep'o-dong missile, such as No-dong-3, Hwasong (Mars)-2 and Moksong (Jupiter)-2. Over time, the estimated range has grown substantially. It was initially estimated to have a range of 4,000 km, but is currently (2003) estimated to have a range of up to 15,000 km. The throw weight is variously estimated as between 250 kilograms to 1,100 kg, depending on the range. There were no flight test of this missile until July 4/5, 2006 reported although versions of this missile have been observed during ground testing in North Korea . As with many other such activities in North Korea, apparently much of the work on North Korea missiles is done underground. This is also reportedly the case in Iran. According to Kim Kil Son, who prior to defection to south Korea in August 1997 worked in a publications department of North Korea ’s Number 2 Research Center, development of this missile started in 1987 after Kim Jong II gave on the spot guidance to the Number 2 Research Center saying that "If we can develop this we have nothing to fear. Even the American Bastards won't be able to bother us. Whether we live or die, we must quickly develop the Hwasong-6."

Finally on January 29, 2007 the US government acknowledged and improved the 1999-2002 data for the first time confirmed the existence of several new Iranian and North Korean missiles under development through a speech and slide presentation by the deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency of the Pentagon Army Brig. General Patrick O’Reilly before the George C. Marshall Institute. In that presentation he described the new two stage Taep’o-dong-2C/3 as having a range of (6,200 Miles) 9,975.8 kilometers and the three stage version with a range of (9,300 miles) 14,963.7 kilometers with a 250 kg warhead. He went further in his slides presentation to show that the No-dong-B has a demonstrated a range of 2,000 miles or 3,218 kilometers (3,000 kilometers) when it is capable of flying (2,485 miles) or 4,000 kilometers. (8) The No-dong-B was described as “a qualitative improvement in the performance” from earlier North Korean missile systems.

Unha-2, Taep'o-dong-2B & Unha-1, Taep'o-dong-1 & Unha-2, Taep'o-dong-2B Evolutionary Development

Note: The Taep'o-dong-2 [1994], 2A [1997-98], are concept that did not go beyond ground test development versions before they were canceled 1994-2001

Comparisons North Korean (DPRK) and Iranian ballistic missiles & Space boosters through 2012


Comparisons North Korean (DPRK) and Iranian ballistic missiles & Space boosters through 2013

Note: The IRIS, Taep'o-dong-2 [1994], 2A [1997-98], are concept that did not go beyond ground test development versions before they were canceled

A liquid fuel engine test was detected at the Taep'o-dong rocket test stand in February 1994. Whether this engine was for the No-dong-A or Taep'o-dong-1 or the Taep'o-dong-2 is unclear. This seems premature to have been a test firing for the Taep'o-dong-2 first stage booster and it is therefore assumed to be associated with the Taep'o-dong-1 booster test. That would essentially have been a No-dong-A test firing which is the first stage of the TD-1. All of these North Korean engines are using highly corrosive and highly toxic so called storable propellants. These engines can only undergo one test firing before they have to be torn down cleaned out and reassembled for further firings, installation on launch vehicles for a flight test, or missile deployment. This is what is done with Titan-4 core stages storable liquid fuel engines. So in a sense they are always single first time firing engines never tested before flight. It either works or it does not. In all probability the test firings of the TD-2 first stage engines have only taken place in the last two or three (2000-2002) years. They may have first been conducted in Iran but that is uncertain. Published reports that multi-stage missiles have been seen stacked and un-stacked in Iran fail to clarify whether the missile in question was the TD-1 or the much larger TD-2. Seven years plus later it is recognized that it had to be a Taep’o-dong-1 engineering technology test evaluation model that was later placed in storage for future considerations.

A declassified CIA report to the Congress estimated that North Korea would require 10-15 years to develop an ICBM capable of delivering a chemical, biological, or nuclear warhead. However, 1998 Rumsfeld report concluded that

"There is evidence that North Korea is working hard on the Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2) ballistic missile. The status of the system's development cannot be determined precisely. Nevertheless, the ballistic missile test infrastructure in North Korea is well developed. Once the system is assessed to be ready, a test flight could be conducted within six months of a decision to do so. If North Korea judged the test to be a success, the TD-2 could be deployed rapidly. It is unlikely the U.S. would know of such a decision much before the missile was launched. This missile could reach major cities and military bases in Alaska and the smaller, westernmost islands in the Hawaiian chain. Light-weight variations of the TD-2 could fly as far as 10,000 km, placing at risk western U.S. territory in an arc extending northwest from phoenix, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin. These variants of the TD-2 would require additional time to develop and would likely require an additional flight test."

The first stage of the TD-2 was said to bear a close resemblance to the Chinese CSS-2's and CSS-3's first stage, but is slightly smaller. Other reports suggest that the first stage of the Taep'o-dong-2 is almost identical to the Chinese CSS-2. The diameter of the TD-2's and the NKSL-X-2's** first stage are apparently closer to 2.2 meters verses the 2.25 m diameter of the Chinese CSS-2 and the Russian SS-5 with its body diameter of 2.4 m. The TD-2/NKSL-X-2** is also shorter in length. This indicates that the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** first stage will have inferior performance compared to the Russian SS-5 and the Chinese CSS-2/DF-3, 3A and CSS-3/DF-4. Circumstantial evidence at the time strongly suggest that the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** first stage engine probably uses four No-dong-A thrust chambers with a new turbo-pump machinery to create a new first stage multiple thrust chamber open cycle engine. This turbo-pump machinery was probably developed jointly by Iran and North Korea with perhaps some help from China under technology-sharing arrangements that evolved in the mid-1990's.That was at least the design detail thinking through 2002 but as of July 4/5, 2006 that has changed.

Missile Systems Nomenclature

North Korea Iran Pakistan
Liquid Propellant Launch Vehicles
1. Scud-B =Shahab-1  
2. Scud-C =Shahab-2  
3. No-dong-A =Shahab-3,3A &3B, =Ghauri-II
4. No-dong-B =? Shahab-4 n/a
5. Taep’o-dong-1 =Taep’o-dong-1A? n/a?
6. n/a =Shahab-3D/IRIS n/a
7. Taep’o-dong-2,2A =Kosar-Shahab-5 n/a
8. Taep’o-dong-2B? =? n/a
9. Taep’o-dong-2C/3 =Shahab-6 n/a
Solid Propellant Motor Launch Vehicles
1. n/a Ghadr-101 =Shaheen-1?
2. n/a Ghadr-110 =Shaheen-2?
3. n/a Ghadr-110A =Shaheen-3?
4. n/a Space L. V./ICBM Space L. V./ICBM

It is generally believed that the second stage of the TD-2 is based on the No-dong-A missile. A widely circulated illustration from Jane's of the TD-2 and other new North Korean missiles depict a TD-2 first stage that is significantly shorter than that of either the CSS-2 or the CSS-3. This may merely be a consequence of the low fidelity of these notional concepts [the No-dong-A is depicted as having the same diameter as that of the Scud, which is not the case]. However, this may also reflect the limited available information concerning the TD-2 at that time. The wide range of estimates of the range of this missile may be a consequence of the vehicles actual length and thus propellant capacity.

Taep ’o-dong-2 as originally designed reflects the least optimized upper stage design which would limit its range performance to below that of the Chinese advanced LRICBM CSS-3A/DF-4 of 4,500-4,750 km. Based on the February 1994 imagery of the TD-2 mock-up the range capability is closer to 3,750 km with two stages but three stages could raise that performance to 4,000-4,300 km. The Taep'o-dong-2 is not the most optimized launch vehicle design as originally viewed and conceived in its performance possibilities because of its aspect ratio's and mass fraction that is the length to diameter ratio creating potential in flight structural problems as well as excess structural mass. North Korea has probably had considerable trouble adapting the structurally heavy No-dong-A second stage to their new Taep'o-dong-2 first stage. It reflects on poor engineering design decisions both in its structural design and imposed performance penalties verses the PRC Chinese DF-4/CSS-3 design as is self evident from the range performance data shown in North Korean missile overview chart. It is also emphasized in their design differences shown in the accompanying illustrations.

Thus its performance due to structural requirements will suffer accordingly. Whether Iran has adapted the North Korean Taep'o-dong-2A or 2C/3 design for its Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 is uncertain. It is strongly suspected that the Iranian will utilize the Taepo-dong-1 type design for its Kosar satellite launch vehicle design. Yet this also remains uncertain. Indeed Iran has suggested that its Shehab-4 will be the last rocket it will develop as a non war rocket space booster satellite launcher though there is definite evidence to the contrary.

Launch Facilities Limits

 During the fall of 1998 and spring 1999, modifications were made to the Taepo'dong-1 launch facility to make it capable for accommodating flight testing of the Taep'o-dong-2. The one factor that stands out with this No-dong-A and Taep'o-dong launch facility and the North Korean launch vehicle designs is the fact that the facilities are not designed for winter time operations but only for the occasional space satellite launch campaign in the spring (summer) or fall of the year. The launch vehicles designs as exemplified by the Taep'o-dong-1 and Taep'o-dong-2 are not easily prepared for launch and do not illustrate the most optimum design for strategic semi mobile or strategic coffin or silo deployment. This Taep'o-dong launch site is what would be classified as a soft site instillation very vulnerable to observation and attack which means it was not designed as a strategic weapons facility.

North Korea ’s Taep ’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B, & 2C/3 the Iran ’s Shahab-5, Kosar Shahab-5, Shahab-6 Strategic Ballistic Missile Space Booster Design Heritage Concept.

The Taep’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B, & 2C/3 design heritage graphic above is an attempt to conceptually project where the known existing hardware can take the programs. The No-dong-A was the basis of the original design of the Taep’o-dong-2, 2A/Shahab-5, 6 mock-up first imaged in North Korea in February 1994. It used a cluster of four No-dong-A engines in the first stage and an altitude version of the No-dong-A as a second stage with a potential solid motor third stage. At the time the solid motor third stage was not perceived until after the assessment of the Taep’o-dong-1 launch failure. That Taep’o-dong-2 design evolved with the Iranian introduction of the Shahab-3D/IRIS sounding launch vehicle as a conceptual upper stage application to the configuration displayed as the Taep’o-dong-2A/Kosar Shahab-5/NKSL-X-2 concept during the years 1997-1998. Up to this point the Taep’o-dong-2A concept was proving to be inadequate both as a satellite launch vehicle but also as a limited range intercontinental ballistic missile (LRICBM). By the year 2000 the impact of the North Korean progress with the advent of the No-dong-B ballistic missile over nine (twelve year by 2003 deployment) years in development was changing the Taep’o-dong-2B upper stages design. With the introduction of the three year flight test moratorium by North Korea in 2003 now extended North Korea was free to pursue the advanced Taep’o-dong-2C/3/Shahab-6 design based solely on the No-dong-B technology and some of the No-dong-A/Shahab-3B instrumentation technology.


Names Stages Range
Kilometers (km)
Type Body Diameter
Meters (m)
Scud-A 1 180-270 SRBM 0.885
Scud-B 1 180-300 SRBM 0.885
Scud-B, Hwasong-5, 1 180-300 SRBM 0.885
Scud-C, Hwasong-6 1 500-700 SRBM 0.885
No-dong, Shahab-3, 3A Ghauri II, 1 1,000-1,350 MRBM 1.3
Shahab-3B 1 2,000 MRBM 1.3
SS-4, Shehab-4? (9) < 1/2 1,800-2,000 MRBM 1.65
Taep’o-dong-1, Shahab-4? 2 2,000-2,200 MRBM (1) 1.3
No-dong-B/Shahab-4 1 3,000-4,000 IRBM 1.5
NKSL-1, Shahab-4/Kosar? 3 2,200-2,672-2,896(8) M/IRBM orbital 1.3
CSS-2/DF-3, 3A 1 2,650-2,800 IRBM (4) 2.25
Taep’o-dong-2,2A Shahab-5? 2 3,500-3,750 LRICBM 2.2
NKSL-X-2, 2A Shahab-6 3 4,000-4,300 LRICBM (2)orbital 2.2
CSS-3/DF-4, 2 4,500-4,750 LRICBM (3) 2.25
SS-5, Shahab-5? (10) 1, 2/3 4,500 I/LRICBM 2.4
Shahab-6 (5) 3 5,471-5,500-5,632-6,200 LRICBM(8) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B (6) 3 6,400-6,700 LRICBM 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2A 2 7,000 LRICBM (7) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2A 3 8,000-12,000 FRICBM (7) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2C/3 2/3 9,976-14,964 FRICBM



SRBM - Short Range Ballistic Missile < 1,000 km. MRBM - Medium Range Ballistic Missile 1,000-2,500 km. IRBM - Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile 2,500-3,500 km. LRICBM - Limited Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile 3,500-8,000 km, FRICBM - Full Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile 8,000-12,000 km

(1) Similar performance to SS-4. 2) Similar performance to SS-5. 3) Performance exceeds SS-5. (4) Performance considerably less than the SS-5, (5) The suggested range performance for this system seems to far exceeds what is technically feasible. (6) The suggested range performance for this system seems to far exceed what is technically feasible. (7) None of the above listed strategic system achieve the FRICBM capability except the Taep’o-dong-2C/3. They in fact fall far short of that kind of performance. It also indicates that all those strategic systems are based on MRBM & IRBM technology. In order to achieve FRICBM capability clustering of these systems would be required in a method similar to that used by the Soviet on the R-7/SS-6 ICBM or an entirely new system design would have to be developed. Clustering these systems because of their design characteristics would be very difficult to impossible. There is on this writing no indication of such a new long term development but this does not mean that it will not appear in the future. Only the United States , Russia and China (PRC) have deployed FRICBM’s. (8) Many of the suggested ranges for the yet to fly missile systems is based on mathematical modeling of the systems relying on what little data is known. Typically these paper studies in the intelligence community over estimate the performance of the actual missile systems. It does however give a range of potential possibilities as to what to look for once they are flown. They however reflect the best and more conservative realistic figures available. (9) Almost certainly not the same strategic system. (10) Almost certainly not the same strategic system.

(?) The question here is the systems essentially one and the same?

*NKSL-1 is an unofficial designation created by Charles Vick . The NKSL-1 is a Taep’o-dong-1 missile with a third stage and satellite added.

**NKSL-X-2 is an unofficial designation created by Charles Vick . NKSL-X-2 is a Taep’o-dong-2 missile with a third stage and satellite added.

Six Years Later Perspective

However with three separate programs having replaced the original Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1, 1A program launch vehicle with the successful flights of the Shahab-3B on August 11, 2004 and the No-dong-B on January 17, 2006 as well as the new Ghadr-101. The subsequently July 5, 2006 flight test of the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 replaced the original design Taep’o-dong-2, 2A and 2B the Shahab-5, 6 launch vehicle design with an all new design launch vehicle in development for over seven years the Taep’o-dong-2C/3. No-dong-B had in fact been introduced into the North Korean inventory in 2003-2004 which was the precursor to the replacement Taep’o-dong-2C/3 design utilizing its airframe and propulsion design technology with a much higher performance system over the previous designs. One would think that with the less effective Taep’o-dong-1 design relegated to uselessness by the greater performance strategic and future satellite launch vehicle programs would have totally disappeared. That may be so but the only launch vehicle available for Iran today is the reworked up-rated Taep’o-dong-1A design to launch a less than 50 kilogram satellite into earth orbit since the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 is not nearly as ready as they would like it to be. The bottom line is that the propulsion system technology totally changed for the North Koreans and Iranians with the introduction of the No-dong-B, 3,218 - 4,000 kilometer range IRBM development completion and deployment which directly impacting the Shahab-4, 5, 6 programs back from the years 1998-2001. Taep’o-dong-2C/3 took over two and a part of a third North Korean five year plans to finally fly in the summer of 2006 when it was expected soon after the Taep’o-dong-1 launch on August 31, 1998 some time in the follow on five year plan during the middle years 2003-2004. There is only one reason for this and that is a total redesign and development of a new advance higher performance launch vehicle requiring an additional 5-7 years. In this particular case it would appear that the Taep’o-dong-2, 2A and 2B designs served as technology precursors developers for the follow-on Taep’o-dong-2C/3 final design launch vehicle. So, yes both Iran and North Korea did redirect their launch vehicle development program in 2001.

Recent Developments in the Taep'o-dong-2 Program of North Korea

During 1999 preparation was detected for what was expected to be the launch of the much larger Taep'o-dong-2 satellite launcher/ballistic missile. Beginning in May 1999, US Intelligence picked up indications that the Taep'o-dong-1 launch site had been undergoing a total rebuild to accommodate the Taep'o-dong-2. Compared to the previous pad gantry umbilical tower (with a height of about 22 meters), the new pad gantry umbilical tower is 1.5 times taller, standing about 33 meters tall. This rebuild was nearly complete as of late July 1999, and as of early August 1999 it appeared that the Taep'o-dong-2 facilities systems test vehicle was already complete and was stored near the launch pad. However, it had not been transported over to the launch pad. It is said that it would take a minimum of two days to assemble the missile on the launch pad before checking it out electronically, mechanically and hydraulically and other preparation explosives arming procedures for a new system and then load liquid propellants from a fleet of tanker trucks. Such preparation would take several weeks to complete because of the nature of the new systems design. What could have been detected by Intelligence was North Korea carry out the facilities post construction testing once the facility rebuild had been completed. By year's (2001/2002) end these activities were abandoned with no launch being attempted. Further ground testing activities were revealed as we shall see from between 1999-2002.

According to some media reports, North Korea has conducted three or four static test firings of Taep’o-dong missile engines, between December 1999 and January 2000, at Musudan-ri infrastructure in North Hamgyong Province . Some of these test firings no doubt involved the static test firing development of the Taep’o-dong-2 first stage four thrust chamber first stage engine cluster. This in turn lead to the more recent late June early July 2001 vertical static test firing of the Taep’o-dong-2 systems integration first stage on the launch pad as reported in The Washington Times. (9, 10)

This in turn lead to the more recent late June or early July 2001 North Korea reported static test firing of the Taep’o-dong-2 first stage on the launch pad. That report in The Washington Times July 3, 2001 (9) failed to note that the static test firings could only have been conducted in a vertical position not horizontally as suggested in what had to be the Taep’o-dong-2 systems integration first stage. Such stage firings are never done in the horizontal for liquid propellant systems. However the engines could be separately bench static tested in a vertical position or horizontally or at 45 degrees from the vertical all of which are quite normal testing procedures used in the liquid propellant rocket engine industry through out the world. Static test firings of the integrated engine and launch vehicle first stage rocket body could only be accomplished on the rebuilt launch infrastructure of Taep'o-dong-1 which is now the new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad with it new gantry umbilical tower. Only later was it possible for the North Korean’s to static test the individual stages of the launch vehicle in a separate large static test stand (subsequently its construction was completed after this test firing) within the near by infrastructure. It was sitting up vertically on the pad firing its flame jet downward into the pad flame bucket, which ducts under the gantry umbilical tower and out the concrete trench into the local foliage to test the stage readiness for flight. The burn mark from that firing was very prominent according to the imagery news reports. It was placed on the new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad beside its new gantry umbilical tower. The ground test was the first major development in the long-range-missile program since the first flight test of the Taepodong-1 in August 1998. A large burn area -- the effects of the engine test -- was photographed by US military reconnaissance aircraft. North Korea tested a new engine for the long-range missile system several times during 2001 at the missile testing site in Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun, of North Hamgyong Province . North Korea has conducted engine tests every year since the August 1998 Taep’o-dong-1 launch . This certainly explains the appearance of propellant tank trucks and support vehicles on the Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad along with a whole series of support trucks recently observed in new imagery taken by Space Imaging of North Korea’s Taep’o-dong-2, 2A launch site. That places the Taep'o-dong-2, 2A/Shahab-5, 6 class space booster one step from being flight tested once they tear-down the first stage engine cluster clean it up, reassemble and install it back in the first stage. What will follow both in Iran and North Korea ’s remains to be seen at that time in the late spring of 2001-2002? (9, 10)

Major Program Shift from Taep’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B to Taep’o-dong-2C/3

In fact North Korea also has abandoned its Taep’o-dong-1, and Taep’o-dong-2A booster in favor of its Taep’o-dong-2C/3 booster program. They scrapped the launch site pad and gantry umbilical tower and built an entirely new launch pad and much taller gantry umbilical tower to handle the Taep’o-dong-2 and follow on redesigned booster systems. More recently inn late June or early July 2001 North Korea used that launch pad to static test fire the Taep’o-dong-2 integrated first stage and four thrust chambered engine or engines. The firing was done with the first stage sitting up vertically on the pad firing downward into the pad flame bucket, using the Chinese design approach which ducts under the gantry umbilical tower. This first stage remained on the pad for months while undergoing dynamic, electronic check out, and general systems integration tests were conducted with it which also included the static test firing. For some unexplained reason the flight test did not follow during the middle of that five year plan as expected. This was the critical program juncture of redirection as the initial design proved inadequate with many problems added to that issue. The burn mark from that firing was very prominent according to the imagery news reports. The North Korean launch site and its combined gantry umbilical tower and flame bucket use the same plan form as that used by China in its Long March launch vehicle launch facilities design. There should be no surprise in this realization of the Chinese influence on this North Korean program. Ultimately this was the end of the original Taep’o-dong-2, 2A class launch vehicle development in favor of the follow on advanced design. These test marked the end of this original design with a redirection of the effort in a new direction. In that development process North Korea is believed to have run into considerable No-dong-A engine clustering problems that essentially slowed the effort to a near stand still. The present new engines of the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 have replaced the troublesome propulsion configuration design initially developed for the program with a much more efficient design that does meet the satellite and full range ICBM performance design requirements. It can not be underestimated how important this new No-dong-B technology is because the impact on the previous design of the Taep’o-dong-2 has effectively replaced it with what amounts to a completely new Taep’o-dong-3 design. This explains the activity seen during this North Korean so called testing moratorium between the years 1999 and 2006. Iran continues to try and purchase the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 hardware for its own program. That technological basses for this new program is now apparently in Iran ’s hands as of the last half of 2005 that both Iran and North Korea have benefited.

This certainly indicates, with relative certainty that the Taep’o-dong-1 launch was not merely carried out for a propaganda statement opportunity to place a satellite in Earth orbit. It was also used as a pathfinder to prove the launch vehicle “building block approach” for the future follow on larger launch vehicle Taep’o-dong-2. This could also indicate that the Taep’o-dong-1 program was only intended to be a short lived limited proof of principal program from which some limited economic benefit from third world countries may have been envisioned by the North Korean military industrial leadership . If, in fact North Korea has abandoned its Taep'o-dong-1 booster in favor of its Taep'o-dong-2 booster program as it does appear then that certainly has possible immediate implication in spite of being down played by U. S. officials. They certainly scrapped the launch site pad and gantry umbilical tower and built an entirely new launch pad and much taller gantry umbilical tower to handle the Taep'o-dong-2, 2A and follow on booster systems designs.

Surely the political leadership of Iran recognized the geopolitical impact of Iran attempting to launch a satellite and perhaps succeeding would create considerable pressure on their regime thus the decision to favor the Shahab-5 more capable system over the shelved Shahab-4 system can be understood. For many years now this is exactly what I though they would do while replacing the Shahab-4 with better systems.

But it must also be stated here that the Taep’o-dong-2/Shahab-5/6 class system is even less viable as a strategic deployable ballistic missile but is a better space booster than the marginal performance Taep’o-dong-1 booster. Both North Korea and Iran seem to be using the "building block approach," to developing what can be said to be space boosters that could if they choose be revised and deployed as ballistic missiles ultimately leading to a Limited Range ICBM, within the next five years. Eventually through indigenous follow on development it could lead to a Full Range ICBM which they are now pursuing. In general the performances attributed to the various missile systems appear to far exceed a realistic performance with a legitimate strategic lethal payload mass to the continental United States . However they are a legitimate lethal threat to the European, Asian, Middle East , and African. It begs the question of just what are they aiming these missiles at both strategically and geopolitical policy wise. They are however through this building block approach developing the technological and management of Industrial, Science & Technology, base that they do not fully have in place now, which could lead to a Full Range ICBM development in the next 7-12 years. It was at the time (2002) not inconceivable for North Korea to ship the jointly developed and tested Taep’o-dong-2 booster first stage to Iran where it would be mated with the Iranian Shahab-3D/IRIS second and third stages of the booster to launch a satellite already announced into Earth orbit? Is that Taep’o-dong-2A/Shahab-5, 6 booster about to be shipped to Iran in the near future? The satellites launch has perhaps slipped to the time frame of 2003-2005. Only time will answer this suggestion. The first attempt Taep’o-dong-2C/3 launch took place on July 4/5, 2006 but it failed only 35 second into its flight.

The Shehab-4/Kosar satellite launch vehicle concept as well as the Shehab-5/LRICBM and Shehab-6/Kosar potential satellite launch vehicle/LRICBM have for some time now been identified as being an apparent Iranian variant of the North Korean Taep ’o-dong-1 and Taep ’o-dong-2 missiles series by the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC). Alternatively NAIC also suggested that the Iranians may be using solid propellant upper stages based on acquired Russian technology or requested M-9 and M-18 assistance from the PRC. During the spring of 2000 it was unclear which variant of North Korean hardware was being developed by Iran for the Shahab-4/Kosar and Shahab-5, and or Shahab-6. Iran is also said to be working with the North Koreans providing technical teams to the North Korean launches. The Iranians come in a specially equipped with a Boeing-707 that apparently is filled with Chinese provided telemetry monitoring equipment for satellite and ballistic missile test launches. This Iranian cooperation apparently also extends into the propulsion arena for the Taep-o-dong-2 first stage/No-dong-A derived rocket engine development.

Joint Development Effort

It is definite that Iran is receiving No-dong-A engines from North Korea based on two separate intelligence documented event reports that have been publicly published. This is perhaps the strongest series of indications that the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile and satellite launch vehicle programs are one and the same programs. North Korea and Iran have tended to present and or mask their strategic ballistic missile programs as satellite launch vehicle programs verses reality.

It was then suggested that the Taep ’o-dong-2 would be deployed without flight testing by North Korea according to NAIC. Research and development on the TD-2 continues unabated according to these reports. The U. S. Government through the Department of State issues two year duration sanctions on June 27, 2001 against Changgwang Sinyong Corp. Company of North Korea that provided the No-dong-A class liquid propellants rocket engines to Iran. This was the second time sanctions had been brought against this company in North Korea.

Iran may have tested the Shahab-3D/IRIS booster last year on September 21, 2000 that failed at 105 seconds in flight. Regardless that could have been a flight test of the second and third stages of the Taep'o-dong-2A/Shahab-5 space booster/ballistic missile. This certainly explains the appearance of 3 mobile propellant tanks and 3 additional tank trucks along with a series of 9-10 support tanker trucks and command power vehicles on the Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad infrastructure recently observed in new imagery taken by Space Imaging of North Korea Taep'o-dong launch site. What will follow both in Iran and North Korea's remains to be revealed in early 2002?

The circumstantial evidence question of all of this is whether Iran will in fact flight test the Taep'o-dong-2A/Shahab-5, 6 class boosters for North Korea and Iran in place of North Korea . This is because North Korea can not afford to do so because of its international agreements not to flight test its ballistic missiles which abruptly ended July 4/5, 2006. Equally this would imply that Iran did not want to waste its time and money repeating the Taep'o-dong-1A pathfinder program and instead chose to go for the real systems engineering goal instead nearly two years ago (1999-2001). Is it inconceivable for North Korea to ship the jointly developed and tested Taep'o-dong-2A booster first stage to Iran where it would be mated with the Iranian Shahab-3D/IRIS second and third stages of the booster to launch a satellite already announced into Earth orbit? Is that Taep'o-dong-2A/Shahab-5 booster about to be shipped to Iran now? Only time will answer this suggestion but the ferment of change was afoot as has now been apparent since the years 1998-2001 .

On August 6, 2003 a report by Sankei Shimbun cited military sources that indicated that North Korea was planning to export components of its Taep’o-dong 2 missile to Iran where North Korean experts would assemble the components in a facility near Tehran . The negotiations between North Korea and Iran began sometime 2002 and were expected to be completed in October 2003.

In May 2004 Middle East Newsline reported that Western intelligence sources Teheran had been negotiating with Pyongyang for the purchase of the Taep’o-dong-2 as Iran 's first intercontinental ballistic missile as well as a space launcher. It was also claimed that in 2003 North Korea had discussed the Taep’o-dong-2 with Libya and Syria , but neither country expressed serious interest.

On 06 May 2004 the JoongAng newspaper in South Korea reported that North Korea was preparing to test engines for the TD-2 ballistic missile. It was reported that the North had restored facilities for missile engine testing that had been destroyed by an explosion in December 2002. A 30-meter (98.43-foot) launching pad was restored in late 2003 at the Musudan-ri missile complex in North Hamgyong province.

On 16 February 2005 Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, U.S. Navy, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that the "...Taepo Dong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile may be ready for testing. This missile could deliver a nuclear warhead to parts of the United States in a two stage variant and target all of North America with a three stage variant."

Satellite Launch Vehicle Developments

Based on indications that the satellite Iran may launch in the next few years is in the 170 and 250-550 kilograms range it would require the Taep’o-dong-2A or 2B or 2C/3. It is known that North Korea ’s Taep’o-dong-2B, or 2C/3 design is in the final stages of development. Iran has already flight tested the No-dong-A and the No-dong-B for North Korea and Iran . It is known that Iran has been attempting to purchase the Taep’o-dong-2 class design from North Korea , a program they originally contributed to its evolving design with the Shahab-3D/IRIS upper stage concept. Whether that purchase agreement has been approved and completed by both parties remains open to interpretation based on the No-dong-B purchase of the new Shahab-4.

The Unha-3, Taep'o-dong-2B -final design with its liquid fueled third stage for the 2012 experimental flight test


Presumably they are still working on Kosar-Shahab-5/Taep’o-dong-2B 2C/3 while preparing to maybe perhaps launch a Shahab-4 with some satellite payload. However it is believed that North Korea has abandoned this 2A and 2B design based on the No-dong-A technology in favor of the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 design Full Range ICBM/space booster. The Taep’o-dong-2C/3 is based on the No-dong-B technology, which can be traced back to the Soviet era SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 technology which had been in their hands since 1988. This certainly explains the delay in the appearance of the Taep'o-dong-2 flight. North Korea has announced that the satellite that will be launched is under development. Iran continues to try and obtain the so called Taep'o-dong-2, final design from North Korea with its apparent 2.0-2.2 meter diameter first stage. The Taep’o-dong-2 is based on the launch pad 2.0 meter inside diameter which will give them a payload capacity in the 250-550 kilogram range depending on the orbit. It is now clear that Iran has received the No-dong-B ballistic missile from North Korea and they apparently have its operational nuclear warhead perfected design details for its application.

Background Taep’o-dong-2C/3

Right before our eyes North Korea has apparently developed a new variant of the Taep’o-dong-2 concept first imaged by the US in February 1994 in mock-up form at the factory. North Korea was circumstantially known to be developing Taep’o-dong-2A satellite launchers and is now believed to have subsequently shifted work into what I have labeled as the Taep’o-dong-2B (TD-2B), and Taep’o-dong-2C/3 (TD-3). Once North Korea rebuilt the Taep’o-dong-1 launch facility into the Taep’o-dong-2A (TD-2A) launch facility two things became apparent; one was the fact that Taep’o-dong-1 was but a “pathfinder vehicle” for the TD-2A follow-on missile system. This was later confirmed by the CIA its public NIE, in agreement with my previously published work. The second was what DIA stated in agreement with my previous works that there was no evidence that the TD-1 was being deployed at that time. Equally revealing was that the TD-2 launch umbilical service tower was re-built for a much larger booster that even the TD-2A or TD-2B or advanced TD-2C/TD-3. Ultimately North Korea and Iran flew the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 final design from the Musudan-ri launch infrastructure on July 4/5, 2006 after seven years of research and development before it failed 35 seconds in flight after liftoff. This game is not over.


1. No TD-1, No Shahab 4, TD-2 TBD, observations from Allen Thomson, November 7, 2003

2. PS/NIE 95-19 DCI National Intelligence Estimate President's Summary Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years [Secret NOFORN Rel CAN] November 1995

3. Barbara Starr, " North Korea missile R&D gains new pace," Jane's Defence Weekly, 25 June 94 , p. 10.

4. "North Korea Grasp At The Stages Beyond NoDong-1", by Barbara Star, and contributions by Paul Baever and Joe Bermudez, Janes Defense Weekly, 19 March 1994, p.18

5. Greg Gerardi and Joseph Bermudez, Jr., "An Analysis of North Korean Ballistic Missile Testing," Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1995, p. 190.

6. Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat 15 July 1998

7. No TaePoDong 2 Yet! Korea Watch

8. http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20070130-122437-6559r.htm Gertz, Bill, How the “axis ” seeks the killer missile, The Washington Times, January 30, 2007 , p. ?

9. Gertz, Bill, “ N. Korea tests its missile engine “, The Washington Times, 3, July 2001, pp. 1 and 7.

10. Gertz, Bill, “Gore Raises Sale to Iran with Chernomyrdin ”, The Washington Times, 13, Feb. 1997, p.?


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