N. Korea satellite appears dead: scientist

December 17, 2012
North Korean rocket Unha-3, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, lifts off from its launching pad in North Pyongan province in North Korea, in this photo provided by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on December 12, 2012.

A satellite launched with fanfare last week by a defiant North Korea appears to be dead as no signal can be detected, a US-based astrophysicist who monitors spaceflights said Monday.

The and its Asian allies have acknowledged that succeeded Wednesday in putting an object into that the communist state said was observing the Earth and airing patriotic songs.

Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that the was clearly in orbit but that no songs could be heard.

"To the best of our knowledge, the satellite isn't operating," he said.

"It's definitely up there and it's whizzing around, but it's just not feeling very well."

McDowell said it was unclear whether the satellite—called the Kwangmyongsong-3—worked initially and that it remained possible that it was transmitting at a level too faint for detection.

But in another sign of trouble, McDowell said that the satellite was fluctuating in brightness. That means that the sun is shining at different angles and the satellite is not pointing down at the Earth as it should.

Even if not functioning, the satellite remains in orbit. The commercial site n2yo.com on Monday tracked the satellite as orbiting at least 505 kilometers (314 miles) above Earth, in line with North Korean statements.

"These things are hard to calculate, but roughly speaking, an object of that density at that height is going to stay up for a few years," McDowell said.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency last week quoted a scientist saying that the technology was "flawless" and that the satellite was broadcasting "Song of General Kim Il-Sung" and "Song of General Kim Jong-Il," references to the state's first two leaders.

The came days before the anniversary of Kim Jong-Il's death. His young son, Kim Jong-Un, succeeded him as leader of the regime, which conceded that an attempted launch in April malfunctioned.

The United States, and Japan all condemned the latest launch. Officials feared it was a veiled test for a long-range ballistic missile.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said that the United States was "still assessing" the North Korean object and that he was unaware of any danger posed.

Explore further: NKorea says satellite 'failed to enter into orbit'

Related Stories

NKorea says satellite 'failed to enter into orbit'

April 13, 2012

(AP) -- North Korea's widely condemned rocket splintered into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff Friday, an embarrassing end to a launch that Pyongyang had infused with national pride during a week of high-level ...

North Korea plans to launch long-range rocket

March 16, 2012

(AP) -- North Korea announced plans Friday to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket, a provocative move that could jeopardize a weeks-old agreement with the U.S. exchanging food aid for nuclear ...

NKorea rocket launch shows young leader as gambler

December 14, 2012

(AP)—A triumphant North Korea staged a mass rally of soldiers and civilians Friday to glorify the country's young ruler, who took a big gamble this week in sending a satellite into orbit in defiance of international warnings.

South Korea launches satellite

July 29, 2006

A rocket carrying South Korea's ninth satellite, the Arirang-2, lifted off Friday from a spaceport outside of Moscow, The Korea Times reported.

Japan launches new spy satellite

September 23, 2011

Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit Friday, officials said, in its latest effort to beef up surveillance against the threat of North Korean missiles.

Recommended for you

Three 'super-Earths' orbiting a cool dwarf star discovered

January 23, 2018

Using NASA's prolonged Kepler mission, known as K2, astronomers have found three new "super-Earth" exoplanets. The newly detected alien worlds orbit the cool dwarf star designated LP415-17. The finding is reported January ...

Dust storms linked to gas escape from Martian atmosphere

January 23, 2018

Some Mars experts are eager and optimistic for a dust storm this year to grow so grand it darkens skies around the entire Red Planet. This type of phenomenon in the environment of modern Mars could be examined as never before ...

Scientist proposes new definition of a planet

January 23, 2018

Pluto hogs the spotlight in the continuing scientific debate over what is and what is not a planet, but a less conspicuous argument rages on about the planetary status of massive objects outside our solar system. The dispute ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.8 / 5 (24) Dec 17, 2012
I got a dollar that says this satellite was disabled by a US killer sat.
2.8 / 5 (13) Dec 17, 2012
Thanks, I'll take your dollar now.
2.6 / 5 (32) Dec 17, 2012
Sorry, you're only worth a nickel. ;)
1 / 5 (9) Dec 17, 2012
One way to make a satellite appear to be failed is to have it spin seemingly out of control, giving the appearance of being a piece of junk until it's actually ready to transmit.

I saw it in a Star Wars movie once. It didn't work there, but hey, this is real life. Lots of things that don't work in real life work in movies, and lots of things that don't work in movies work in real life.
1.3 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2012
Worst possible answer is this is a working EMP set to go off over the US on DEC 21st and people will blame the End of the World predictions and not realize the "failed" satellite is to blame.
not rated yet Dec 18, 2012
The article reminds me of cold war times. Nothing of importance, grossly selected information only.
Remember who was the first Westerner to hear signals from Sputnik back in 1957: no professional Center for Astrophysics; only a German hobby astronomer.
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 18, 2012
I thought he was Norwegian?
5 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2012
I got a dollar that says this satellite was disabled by a US killer sat.

Why do that if it doesn't appear to be a threat? Useful information regarding the capabilities of N. Korea can be gathered monitoring an operational satellite.
2.5 / 5 (21) Dec 18, 2012
I got a dollar that says this satellite was disabled by a US killer sat.

Why do that if it doesn't appear to be a threat? Useful information regarding the capabilities of N. Korea can be gathered monitoring an operational satellite.

Maybe it *was* a threat?

About the only thing we know about US intel is what US intel wants us to know - just enough to keep the masses disgruntled, frightened, and somewhat satiated. And just enough to fuel some excellent conspiracy theories! :)
3.4 / 5 (17) Dec 18, 2012
I'm curious if they will be able to do more successful launches, or if they got lucky with this one. It seems obvious that something didn't go as planned, but at least they got to orbit. It's no secret that what they really want is a long range missile, so maybe they didn't really care what happened to the satellite after it got up there. The thought of an uncontrolled weapon in orbit would be a bit disturbing though. I wonder what their payload capacity is? If they can't carry enough weight for thier nukes then they still have more work to do before this is anything to worry about. If they really wanted to nuke a city, it wouldn't be that hard to just put one on a ship and sail right into the bay.

What's more troubling than North Korea having a long range nuke is that they share tech with Iran. I'm not sure Korea would use a nuke, but I think Iran might.
2 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2012
It seems as of the only country not able to get into space is America.

Obviously the satellite is communicating with the ground via Laser.
1 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2012
I am not troubled by this.

"What's more troubling than North Korea having a long range nuke is that they share tech with Iran." - GSwift7

Why are American Conservatives soiling the pants over it?

How do you know that there was even a launch?

2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2012
You'd think they'd send a satellite up there for some other purpose than to transmit "Song of General Kim Il-Sung" and "Song of General Kim Jong-Il". Telecommunications comes to mind. Spying comes to mind. This technology is just about on the level of a Sputnik, if what they're telling us is true (take that with a grain of salt) and on top of that, it doesn't even appear to be working as claimed. I mean, who's to know that the songs blaring out of people's radios aren't coming off a recording? Russian technology put that thing there, so I don't think that we should worry too much about DPRK's threat potential. They'd probably get war all wrong, too, if nobody stepped in to help them.
3.4 / 5 (17) Dec 19, 2012
Why are American Conservatives soiling the pants over it?

Let's take that statement one word at a time.

First, it's not just Americans.

Second, it's not just conservatives.

Third, nobody is that worried about it. The problem is that North Korea wouldn't hesitate to sell weapons to people who shouldn't have them. For example, imagine one of the South/Central American drug cartels getting a nuke. Here's another one: Remember the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia? What if they had nukes? How about the civil war in Sudan; what if they had nukes? Iran has always said that they want to destroy Isreal. Do you want them to have a missile capable of hitting Isreal, or a missile capable of taking out a US carrier battle group?

Korea is still quite a ways off from that point, so the danger is only speculative right now. The point is that now is the time to talk to them about it, not later.
not rated yet Dec 21, 2012
I haven't looked yet, but I will search in a few minutes. Are the Keplerian data for the Korean satellite being broadcast along with the other known satellites? If so, I bet some amateur radio operators are trying to 'listen' to any broadcasts.
not rated yet Dec 21, 2012
I looked this up and now need to find what the elements actually 'mean' but here is the data to allow anyone to follow the North Korean satellite. With this info an amateur scientist could track and monitor RF emissions: (sorry for the formatting, found this here - http://www.celest...-new.txt

1 39027U 12072B 12354.91049961 .00001125 00000-0 74179-4 0 337
2 39027 97.4045 43.5628 0066226 148.6332 211.8874 15.07679345 1198
1 39028U 12072C 12355.09424240 .00005975 00000-0 35364-3 0 299
2 39028 97.4468 43.8003 0053038 148.1720 212.2815 15.10594600 1229
1 39029U 12072D 12355.10789634 .00005589 00000-0 35040-3 0 284
2 39029 97.3636 43.7344 0063197 143.3717 217.1876 15.08038456 1212

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.