It looks like that Thursday will be the big day for the North Korean rocket launch:
Impoverished North Korea rejected international protests over its planned long-range rocket launch and said on Wednesday that it was injecting fuel “as we speak”, meaning it could blast off as early as Thursday.
If all goes to plan, the launch, which North Korea’s neighbors and the West say is a disguised ballistic missile test, will take a three-stage rocket over a sea separating the Korean peninsula from China before releasing a satellite into orbit when the third stage fires over waters near the Philippines.
Regional powers also worry it could be the prelude to anothernuclear test, a pattern the hermit state set in 2009.
“We don’t really care about the opinions from the outside. This is critical in order to develop our national economy,” said Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control centre at the Korean Committee of Space Technology.
Once the refueling has been completed, the North Koreans will have to inject chemicals into the rocket which cause corrosion, which means the firing could come on Thursday, at the start of a five-day window announced already by Pyongyang.
Weather conditions on the peninsula also appear to favor a launch on Thursday or Saturday, according to meteorological reports from Japanese television.
“The likelihood of a launch (on Thursday) is the greatest,” said Francis Yoon, a professor of engineering at South Korea’s Yonsei University and an expert on rocket technology. [Reuters]
So any bets on whether the rocket launch will be a success? I think it will be a successful launch because the North Koreans and Iranians have been reportedly sharing missile technology. The Iranians successfully put their third satellite into orbit last month, which likely means that the North Koreans should have a very high probability of putting a satellite into orbit as well.
However, the claims about what the satellite will do appears to be false:
North Korea claims that its impending satellite launch, scheduled for this week, is merely a mission to study the country’s “distribution of forests” and weather patterns. But after analyzing the satellite’s potential flight paths, a network of amateur and professional spaceflight specialists have concluded that Pyongyang’s claim is all but impossible. In order for the North Koreans to get a weather or observation satellite into the proper orbit, these experts say, Pyongyang would have to risk the early stages of its rockets dropping on its neighbors’ and allies’ heads.
“I believe that the most reasonable interpretation is that they are lying about this being a satellite launch, which has been betrayed by the incompetence of their propagandists in over-reaching in their cover story,” longtime satellite watcher Ted Molczan noted on the SeeSat listserv. [Wired.com via reader tip]
You can read a whole lot more at the link but if the North Koreans were being truthful about putting this satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit to measure North Korean crops and climate the flight path for the launch would have to go over eastern China and drop debris on Taiwan. I have never believed anything they had said about the satellite because I just figured they would be happy just to put something into orbit that beeps. This launch is all about perfecting their boost technology.