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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tongch'ang-dong Missile and Space Launch Facility
Pongdong-Ni / Tongchang-Ni

By Tim Brown
Senior Fellow

Characteristics of Tongch'ang-dong Missile and Space Launch Facility

The Launch Site

The launch site at Tongch’ang-dong bears a striking resemblance to the Jiuquan launch site in Northwest China. The launch site consists of an umbilical tower, a movable launch pad and two adjacent underground fuel storage buildings.

Diagram of the Chinese launch complex at Jiuquan
Diagram of the Chinese launch complex at Jiuquan. The similarity of the layout suggests Chinese influence or technical assistance.

The fixed steel umbilical support tower approximately 40 meters high, and provides electrical connections, gas pipelines, liquid pipelines, to the launch vehicle. There is not rotating gantry visible, because either it has not been assembled or the launch vehicle will arrive at the umbilical tower fully assembled.

Main analysis of the Tongch'ang-dong launch site as of 3 June 2009
Main analysis of the Tongch'ang-dong launch site as of 3 June 2009.
Credit: and DigitalGlobe.

The umbilical tower has several rotating service platforms, which provide access to the launch vehicle and payload. These swing away from the launch vehicle prior to launch. The umbilical tower probably provides an air-conditioned payload operation area, in which the temperature, humidity and air cleanliness are monitored. An underground cable tunnel connects the umbilical support tower to nearby fuel storage buildings.

Evolution of the Tongch’ang-dong launch pad from 2002 to 2009.
Credit: and DigitalGlobe.

Construction progress of the launch site between September 2002 and January 2011
Evolution overview of the construction of the launch site between September 2002 and January 2011.
Credit:, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye

Movable launch pad

The moveable launch pad is use to transport the vertically integrated launch vehicle to the umbilical tower. During launch the rocket exhaust flows through the moveable launch pad. The moveable launch pad is about 10 by 13 meters in size, and travels on two rails about ten meters apart and about 150 meters in length. A large pile of construction materials is about 60 meters to the west of the umbilical support tower that may contain either the final parts needed to complete the launch pad and umbilical support tower or are left over materials that have yet to be removed from the site. It is also a possibility that the North Koreans deliberately left the materials out in the open to give the false impression the facility is not yet operational.

There is no vertical or horizontal processing building at the far end of the launch area. This could be because the North Koreans are planning on transporting each stage and stacking them at launch pad or because the building has not been constructed. If this is the case, the launch facility may far from being operational.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:39:26 ZULU