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

North Korean Unha-3 three stage rocket erected at seaside launch pad days ago. Roxket was launched on April 12 and failed shortly after liftoff

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

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.”