Breaking News – Controversial North Korean Rocket Launch Apparently Fails in Flight

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North Korea has just gone ahead with their announced intentions to defy international warnings and launched the highly controversial Unha-3 long range missile a short while ago at 7:39 AM local time on Friday the 13th (2239 GMT, 6:39 PM EDT Thursday), as reported by CNN, NBC, Fox and other news media on live TV broadcasts at 7 PM EDT, Thursday evening. [Story Updated]

The 3 stage rocket apparently failed in flight quickly and broke apart within the first 90 seconds to 2 minutes and never reached orbit, according to US, Japanese and South Korean officials who have been closely monitoring the developing situation the past few weeks.

Missile tests by North Korea are banned by UN Security Council resolutions.

The White House is expected to issue a statement shortly. Read the official NORAD statement below.

North Korean had invited news media from around the world to view the rocket up close at the launch pad a few days ago, an unprecedented action of openness. But the actual launch and exact timing was not announced ahead of time.

The international reporters who had gathered for the event were caught off guard, in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, many hundreds of miles distant from the launch site.

The failure is a huge embarrassment to the prestige of the North Korea’s new leader, 28 year old Kim Jong Un, who was promoted to the leadership upon the recent death of his father Kim Jong Il.

Japanese Defense Ministry officials are quoted by NBC and CNN as saying the rocket fell into the ocean after flying about 75 miles. The cause of the rocket failure is not known at this time.


Animation of the planned Unha-3 rocket launch. Credit: Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI)

North Korea’s neighbors and the West had strongly condemned North Korean’s launch plans saying this launch was really a disguised test of a military ballistic missile that could be easily converted for military purposes and strike as far as the US West Coast with a nuclear warhead.

North Korean said they were merely launching a small and peaceful experimental weather satellite which they displayed to the media days ago. The timing coincides with the anniversary of the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, deceased founding father and former leader of North Korea

The Unha-3 rocket blasted off from the Tongchang-ri, rocket base on North Korea’s west coast near the Chinese border on a southerly course. The trajectory was aimed to skirt along the coasts of South Korea and Japan, causing those countries great concern if the rocket were to develop problems in flight and veer off course and crash on land, potentially causing damage or loss of life in a worst case scenario.

The 90 ton Unha-3 rocket is about 100 feet (30 m) tall.

The UN Security council has scheduled an emergency meeting on Friday in New York to deal with the situation.

There has been no official announcement from the North Korean Government as of this writing.

Further details will be added here as this breaking news story unfolds

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NORAD released the following statement this evening April 12, 2012

“North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. systems detected and tracked a launch of the North Korean Taepo Dong-2 missile at 6:39 p.m. EDT. The missile was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea.”

“Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 km west of Seoul, South Korea. The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat.”

24 Replies to “Breaking News – Controversial North Korean Rocket Launch Apparently Fails in Flight”

    1. The majority of US farmers had also stopped using oxen in their trade by the time the US began pushing into rocketry:P. There is a wee bit of an infrastructure and technical gap between the 1950s US and present day North Korea.

    2. The US didn’t have an existing stockpile of foreign missiles and alliances with countries with successful missile programs. North Korea’s repeated failure is despite Iran’s help. Whether it’s DPRK incompetence or Iranian unconfidence is anyone’s guess.

      1. US had stockpile of German V2 missiles and bunch of German engineers so your statement is false.

      2. The V2 wasn’t a true space going rocket. How many redstones did NASA blow up before they got one into orbit. My statement is true.

      3. Vedran was replying not to you but to David, specifically his comment about an “existing stockpile of foreign missiles”.

      4. Interesting point! According to Wikipedia’s article on Project Vanguard,

        “The Army’s Redstone-based proposal would likely be first ready for a first satellite launch. Its connection with German-born scientist Wernher von Braun, however, was a public relations risk.[2] In any case, the Atlas and Redstone ballistic missiles were top-priority military projects, which were not to be slowed by pursuing a secondary space launch mission.”

        The spectacular US failures were a result of not using the foreign talent, and fortunes changed when the US launched its first satellite on the V-2 derived Redstone. Once they called on a team with previous success, the PR nightmare was over.

        DPRK’s failure is despite having hired Russian engineers to fine-tune a Russian design, according to Wikipedia’s articles on Taepodong, etc. WP is a less reliable source on that subject, but DPRK does not have the same interest in developing truly native capabilities as the US. They would have to contend with the loyalty of scientists, which is a real problem for a miserable, totalitarian state.

    3. It took the Soviets more than once to get it right.
      It took the Europeans more than once to get it right.
      It took the Chinese more than once to get it right.
      It took the Indians more than once to get it right.
      It took the Japanese more than once to get it right.

      What is your point?

      1. I’m guessing his point is either “Well, it’s not that embarrassing” or “We shouldn’t get complacent – they might do it right eventually”

        Which are both true (though it is embarrassing to some extent, given the delusions of grandeur that NK hold)

      2. I don’t think that this failure is all that embarrassing; it is, after all, rocket science. What was really sad was the second launch attempt, which also failed but they continue to insist that the satellite actually made orbit. I wonder when they finally do succeed will they make a big deal about it? After all it will be their “second” time.

    1. Your flights to Australia may take longer, but they usually arrive, unlike this missile the N. Koreans just launched. 🙂

  1. The mouse that roared (again) out of darkness – with a ballistic missile’s fiery launch. This time it may have ended with a squeak (or perhaps, a console “beep”). Next time, it could end with a nuclear test blast, over the Ocean, perhaps.

    To the east, Japan , a Technological Giant, will not continue to stand by, while diplomats wile-away the time (as aggressive development goes on, apparently, unchecked), manipulated like puppets by this tyrannical regime (another of turning “axis” does likewise, one could see).

    The ancient Island Land of the Samurai, may just decide to depend on its own native muscle, and, like a Snow Leopard’s rise, build its own Nuclear Arsenal.

    Who could blame them, with one or more offensive missiles having arced over their beautiful Pacific Homeland.

      1. You have a point, Deejay Nunti: But there you had a radioactive monster of a different coastal emergence. It, however could be contained, and eventually caged. Yet it did inflict frightening harm, no question. Its earth-wound may last “10k” years!

        But a crazed roaring “mouse”, flinging ballistic missiles around (which, could at any time, presumably, be armed with city-obliterating war-heads), is 10m times more dangerous – unless you have a “MAD”-like deterrent, to strike fear into a would-be aggressor, insanely rattling its nuclear sword (if only in a marshal shadow dance).

        Please don’t misread me: I am not advocating a “MAD” world – its tenuous sanity is already slipping away.

  2. Did anyone notice that New Zealand just launched their first “peaceful” satellite delivery system? I thought not! Of course New Zealand is not a bat-shait crazy regime ruled by a fat freak just out of his teen years. 🙂

    1. Au contraire. The late Dear Leader Kim Jong Ill (told you I was ill) deliberately destructed the rocket from Heaven as the capitalist bourgeois low earth orbit is not worthy of glorious North Korean spacecraft…..who knows how the “bat-shait crazy regime” will spin this one.

  3. Who in is right mind would launch an intercontinental missile rocket on a Friday, the 13th…?
    Superstition seems to payoff somehow…better be safe than sorry next time…

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