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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Unha-9, Taep'o-dong-3

New Improved Unha-9 booster



©By C. P. Vick, 2012, 3-29-2013

Senior Technical & Space Policy Analyst



The appearance of the Unha-9 [Taep'o-dong-3] in this Five Year Plan is no surprise. The much greater growth potential built into the gantry umbilical tower on the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province confirmed and foretold the appearance of this development is reviewed in this initial report.

The DPRK Space Effort Continues:

The hand writing on the wall has been there all along for this dedicated NK-SL-X-? geostationary, crewed military/civil space booster during the previous two DPRK, Five Year Plans [1-1-2006 - 12-30-2010] & [1-1-2001 – 12-30-2005]. These developments were observed both at the R&D infrastructure of the DPRK and the newer launch infrastructure as well as the Present Five Year Plan [1-1-2011 - 12-30-2015] fiscal requirements planning. Taep’o-dong-3 has been rumored in development since early during the last five year plan around the time of the Taep’o-dong-2 first experimental flight test of July 5, 2006.

Future space launches are planned within this State, Five Year Plan 1-1-2011 through 12-30-2015. In addition to the Unha-3, Unha-9/Taep’o-dong-2m series the North Korean, Strategic Rocket Forces deployed No-dong-B IRBM is to receive the first models of the new in R&D, KN-08, LRICBM (No dong-C) programs with in this Five Year Plan. This will be over and above the three times a year regular missile testing training program operations conducted by the DPRK. (20, 21, 22, 23)

North Pyongyang, Sanum-dong Missile Development Center factory R&D Infrastructure

In the DPRK “everybody works under the same roof” for the State and it is no different on the large north Pyongyang, Sanum-dong Missile Development Center factory vast conglomerate infrastructure and its State responsibilities. Remember General Odem, quote “The military is the State and the State is the military.” without which nothing would function in the DPRK. Both the Taep’o-dong-2 Unha-3 and new Taep'o-dong-3 / Unha-9 as well as the KN-08, LRICBM have appeared on this infrastructure.

The north Pyongyang, Sanum-dong Missile Development Center factory constitutes a vast facility, testing grounds and general R&D, production conglomerate as modern as any facilities in the high technology Western world. This is the result of studying the Google Earth images publicly available on line. It contains wind tunnels that are near identical to the most advanced US, NASA and USAF facilities. In deed the infrastructure is like combining the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, Langley Research center, Glenn Research Center and Ames Research Center, in addition to the Tullahoma, Arnold Air Force Base facilities with it Arnold Engineering Development Center. In some cases it reminds one of facilities that only the US has and they are near identical to the US designs. How they have achieved this is indeed an intriguing question with many implications. Yes this infrastructure contains the General satellite Command & Control center. It also apparently handles much of the military aircraft development for the DPRK.

External R&D sites Identified

The Sanum-dong Missile Development Center facility also utilizes other static test firing and dynamic test facilities located on the Musudan-ri,” ( Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground infrastructure in Hwadae County, in North Hamgyong Province) as well as the Pongdong-ni, or Dongchong-ri or Tongch'ang-dong, Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province infrastructure. This is beyond the Pyongyang surrounding general Space Program and Military Ballistic Missile R&D infrastructure all working under the same DPRK Government employer roof serving both so called civil and military requirements. The Pyongyang region also includes the Earth Station with its large Dishes and the General Satellite Monitoring Facilities with its multiple smaller dishes.

Unha-9's Space booster first was in display models exhibits after the post Unha-3 launch success of December 2012.

The introduction of the Unha-9 space booster with its potential 12,000 kilometer range over the Unha-3 estimated range of 10,000 kilometers took place during the post Unha-3 successful orbital launch of December 2012 celebrations. It was displayed as a as large scale model of the Improved Unha-3 booster, That model showed a longer first stage as well as a slightly larger payload shroud with the Unha-9 name emblazoned on the models side.

The initial use of the mobile pad carried an adapter for the Taep’o-dong-2’s / Unha-3, first stage diameter of 2.48 meters. That is over 55.8 meter height of the gantry umbilical tower also reflects the growth potential built into the facility. The larger point being that the Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch infrastructure is much more developed than the older existing one Tonghae Satellite Launching Station.

Serious Reality Questions on the Semi-mobile ICBM Viability of this Dedicated Geo-stationary, Crewed Space Booster

Realistically this dedicated space booster is a very large booster rocket systems on the order of 33.5 meters or more taller with at least a 2.48 meter diameters first stage as wide as a railroad car requiring considerable mobile ground support systems in addition to weeks of preparation on pre-surveyed soft sites does not adapt itself well as a strategic ICBM no matter how it is presented. A 34 meter long missile whether 2.48 meters in diameter is an unwieldy monster to handle logistically no matter what its purpose. It’s a bad joke to call it a semi-mobile designs which it absolutely is not. Since they are not deployed in “coffin”, “silo” or “cave/underground tunnel” based military garrison sites brings into question its viability as strategic ballistic missile system but yet there is that potential option to attempt to operate in that fashion with its potential strategic threat that cannot be ignored. Let us all hope that not too much is being read into this national security threat potential since there is only two viable site capable of launching such a large missile system with its considerable support personnel and mobile fueling vehicles in addition to the extensive launch support infrastructure.

The following information was released by senior official of the DPRK space administration:

The Korean Central News Agency quote from the DPRK Committee for Space Technology (KCST) on April 15, 2012 as stating that “Scientists and technicians of the DPRK have already wound up the specific and scientific probe into the cause of Kwangmyongsong-3’s failure to enter its orbit.” And “All the scientific and technological data and previous experience gained this time will serve as a very precious boon to space development and a reliable guarantee for greater success in the days ahead.” It went on further to state “We have a comprehensive state plan for space development including expansion and strengthen of space development institutions as required by latest science and technology and continued launch of working satellites need for the country’s economic development. (66, 67)

The below illustration shows the relationship between the Unha-3 size space booster as compared to the Improved Unha-9 booster adaptation to the same launch infrastructure pad and gantry umbilical tower.

This illustration shows the differences between the Unha-3 and the Unha-9 space boosters with the full range ICBM potential of 10,000-12,000 kilometers though they appear entirely too large to be practical as a weapons system.

The evolution of North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles and space boosters through 2013.

Makeyev OKB Heritage Implication of Continued Developments Unexplained

The NK-SL-X has a V. P. Makeyev OKB heritage design wise but must be presumed to reflecting on very real system that is in the advanced stages of development that will exceed the Taepo-dong-2 space booster capability. There can be no further doubt about the ongoing Makeyev OKB technology transfer in North Korea based on the entire previous systems heritage. That heritage goes back to the Scud-B through Taep’o-dong-2 technology, and personnel technology transfer that took place in the Gorbachev era. It strongly suggests that the Makeyev personnel remaining are still working on DPRK missile systems. We now have a consistent Acad. V. P. Makeyev OKB launch vehicle and Acad. A. M. Isayev ; OKB -2 propulsion design heritage for the following systems that have flown in flight test except for the latest last two in research and development: They are as follows:

Acad. V. P. Makeyev OKB DPRK Heritage Missile Systems:

Scud-B TBM Success
Scud-C TBM Hwasong-5 Success
Scud-ER TBM Hwasong-6 Success
No dong-A MRBM

No dong-B IRBM Success
Taep’o dong-1 Space booster Unha-1 Failure
Taep’o dong-2/Unha-3, Unha-9, R & D Space booster Unha-2, 3,=3 Failures, 1 success
NK-SL-X, R & D Dedicated Space Booster Geostationary / Manned L.V.
KN-08, R & D LRICBM to replace TD-2 [No-dong-C (cpv)] ?

TBM-Tactical Ballistic missile, MRBM-Medium Range Ballistic Missile, IRBM- Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, LRICBM – Limited Range Inter-continental Ballistic Missile

Separating ICBM’s from Space Boosters and U. S. Policy ERROR

Equally the NK-SL-X size does not easily adapt to a semi-mobile ICBM and one ends up wonder if this is not a super space booster only with growth potential but also that it is two different animals being explored here. That is one huge space booster with growth potential but it certainly is not a smaller semi-mobile limited range ICBM that has yet to appear until very recently on April 15, 2012.

It definitely reflects what Iran and the DPRK would need to be a manned space booster. It is however known that Iran is working on Solid propellant longer range missile possible ICBM for its military so perhaps the DPRK will also produce it in the not too distant future as a trade for the large 40 meter long space booster though that is speculation based on some known’ s and a lot if If’s.

“Cold War” lessons learned or lost, Policy Issue?

The question in my mind is have we lost perspective of one of the most critical lessons learned from the “Cold War” between the former USSR and US that could have foreshortened the Cold War as it applies to the DPRK (North Korea) and what it is saying? If indeed the DPRK is attempting to develop a series of low to medium lift space boosters as is so evident now as opposed to the strategic ballistic missiles and if every country has a right to a peaceful space program and access to space then can we separate the strategic/nuclear issues from the space program issues under safeguards to get cooperation/leverage in cutting the DPRK strategic/nuclear systems as the world desires. Surely this possibility should be explored by policy makers. We must keeping in mind that the DPRK are masters of Deception and Psychological Warfare as applied to its outside world relations for mind and perception, Strategic Control is a way of life there. They live and believe their own lies to themselves for their purposes.


20. Gertz, Bill, North Korea making missile able to hit U.S. The Washington Times, Dec. 5, 2011. P. 1-4, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/dec/5/north-korea-making-missile-able-to-hit-us/?page=all

21. Gertz, Bill, Inside The Ring: North Korea’s ICBM, The Washington Times, March 7, 2012, p. 1, http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/7/inside-the-ring-north-koreas-icbm/

22. N. Korea “Building Even Bigger Missile”, The Chosun Ilbo , http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/04/03/2012040300634.html, April 3, 2012, p. 1

23. 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. ?

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