North Korea’s Earth Observation Satellite Nosedives
Saturday, April 14th, 2012
We all saw the headlines: North Korea Launches Rocket, swiftly followed minutes later by North Korean Rocket Crashes. It was the sreeen shot image of the month.
Here come the dreaded I-told-you-so’s. When North Korea recently announced its plans to launch a rocket, the world was very clear on its stance: don’t go there. Even now, North Korean scientists are still deciphering what brought the space-bound rocket careening back to Earth.
So, why is North Korea so dogged in its attempts to become a successful rocket launcher?
Celebration & Satellites
Part of North Korea’s interest in rockets lies in space. Thursday’s missfire was actually an attempt to get the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite — an Earth observation satellite — into orbit. Not only that, the launch was also meant to commorate the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung, North Korea’s national founder. And despite the rocket’s failure, festivities carried on without pause.
To be fair, for countries with little experience, the final frontier is a tough slog. It’s an evolution. Even back in the sixties, with the space race in full-force, national space programs saw numerous pitfalls in their launch efforts.
According to NBC Space Analyst James Oberg, ”Failures in space often occur because, basically, ‘space is hard’. And it’s especially hard on beginners. Failure rates in almost every national program start out high, and then diminish.”
Then, there’s stage fright — throw a 100th anniversary and disapproving world leaders into the mix, and it all adds up to a lot of pressure. ”The schedule pressure on this North Korean mission, tied to the most important holiday in their country’s history, must have been immense. It’s a formula for fatal errors, all too familiar to space experts,” says Oberg.
Check out this simulation of the botched launch.
Theras Wood, Writer & Editorial Lead