Feeds

North Korea's satellite a dud, say US astroboffins

Tumbling out of control – just like the country that built it

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

North Korea may have successfully launched a satellite into orbit, as reported last week, but it might as well have deployed a pile of scrap metal, US-based astroboffins say.

"It's clear that the rocket part of this mission worked very well for the North Koreans," Harvard astronomer John McDowell told The New York Times. "They ended up in the right orbit. But the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the satellite failed either during the ascent or shortly afterwards."

As of Monday, scientists had not picked up any transmissions from the North Korean satellite, McDowell said, and it's believed the device is tumbling in an uncontrolled orbit, spinning end over end, indicating that it's not responding to commands from its minders.

The satellite is thought to house a camera for observing the Earth, but such an instrument would be useless unless deployed in a stable orbit.

North Korean media has portrayed the launch, which took place last Wednesday, as an unqualified success, claiming it as a scientific and technological achievement undertaken at the behest of the country's former leader, the late Kim Jong-Il.

Previous attempts had not fared as well. A rocket launched in April flew for just two minutes before breaking up and falling into the ocean.

But the relative success of last week's launch has not pleased officials in the US and elsewhere, who regard North Korea's space program as a thinly veiled effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea is barred from developing missile and nuclear weapons technology by UN rules, concessions that the isolated and impoverished nation has made in exchange for foreign aid.

Some experts believe that by launching a rocket now, North Korea's young new leader and sexiest man alive, Kim Jong-Un, hopes to gain a new bargaining chip for future negotiations.

That plan may backfire, however, because even China – North Korea's only significant diplomatic ally – has reportedly expressed its regret over the launch.

How credible a military threat North Korea's latest rocket represents is up for debate. Although successfully orbiting a satellite indicates a significant advancement of North Korea's rocket technology, the country is still believed to be a long way from developing an effective long-range ballistic missile.

Launching a rocket into orbit is one thing. Striking a target is another, and the fact that Pyongyang's spy satellite appears to be inactive suggests that it still lacks the technology necessary for controlled re-entry.

The dead device could represent a threat of another kind, however, in that its uncontrolled orbit makes it a hazard to other satellites. Even tiny pieces of orbital debris can cause significant damage, and North Korea's satellite – which is orbiting at a rate of around 4.7 miles per second – is said to be about the size of a washing machine.

Had the satellite been deployed successfully, however, any nighttime photos it took would have revealed what more advanced countries have long known: that North Korea remains a backward, poverty-stricken nation, where such basic technologies as electric lighting are reserved for an elite few. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.