Now that the North Korean rocket launch is over now everyone is speculating about its satellite:
US and South Korean officials appear to disagree on one detail of the North Korean satellite that has nothing to do with any difference over what to do about it.
No sooner had major American television networks spread the word from their official sources that the satellite was “out of control” than South Korea’s defense ministry came out with just the opposite view.
Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok, briefing South Korean reporters, told them that, “for the time being,” the satellite is “working normally.”
That word seemed to snuff out the image of the satellite wobbling off course as it circles the earth in what the ministry says is an oval pattern. The satellite, says the ministry, takes 95.4 minutes to complete an orbit at a speed of about four miles per second.
The difference in analysis appears to revolve around what kind of orbit the satellite is in as it whirls about 300 miles above the earth’s surface.
Lee Sung-yoon, professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School in Medford, Mass., argues that North Korea has “not yet developed a fully functioning satellite despite their apparent success in ballistic propulsion technology.” Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, reports that analysts at the Korean Aerospace Research Institute believe North Korean engineers aimed to put the satellite in a circular orbit, but that it’s now in an elliptical orbit. That doesn’t mean, they say, that it’s “out of control.”
The institute’s Lee Kyu-su says the North Koreans could correct the course of the satellite, which weighs 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds), with the help of a small booster, which the North Koreans don’t have.
The big mystery, according to Mr. Kim at the defense ministry, is what the North Korean satellite is really doing up there. “It is not yet known what kind of mission the satellite is conducting,” he says. “It usually takes two weeks to evaluate whether a satellite is successful.” [Christian Science Monitor]
I think the confusion on whether or not the North Korean satellite is out of control or not has more to do with the fact that the North Koreans probably did not care what orbit the satellite was in as long as it got into orbit. I seriously doubt the North Koreans have the sophistication to properly put satellites into pre-planned orbits as the article suggests. As far as the purpose of the satellite I would be surprised if it does more than just beep out signals so the ground controllers back in North Korea can track it. Just being able to do that seems to me to be quite a success for them.
I think the big test for them is not the satellite, but whether or not they can replicate the success of their launch system. Remember the reports have said that this rocket was built with the help of Ukrainian and Iranian parts and assistance. Will they be able to continue to rely on these foreigners to make their space program successful? I guess we will see when they try to launch again.