North Korea says its 2nd attempt to launch a spy satellite has failed, vows 3rd try

by Ethan Kim
Satellite Launch

North Korea announced on Thursday that its second endeavor to launch a surveillance satellite was once again met with failure. Nonetheless, the country expressed its determination to make another attempt in October, revealing a resolute commitment to obtaining a vital military asset coveted by its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The unsuccessful launch prompted Japan, a neighboring nation, to issue a “J-alert,” advising certain residents to evacuate to safe areas as the North Korean rocket traversed over the southernmost islands of Okinawa and into the Pacific Ocean.

According to the North’s space agency, the reconnaissance satellite Malligyong-1 was intended to be placed into orbit using the new-type carrier rocket Chollima-1. The agency reported that the rocket’s first and second stage flights proceeded normally; however, the launch ultimately faltered due to an error in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight, as conveyed by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The National Aerospace Development Administration revealed its plans for a third launch attempt in October after thoroughly assessing the issues that led to the failure of the recent launch. The agency emphasized that the accident’s cause is not of great concern in terms of the overall reliability of cascade engines and the system.

Soo Kim, an expert at Virginia-based consultancy LMI and a former CIA analyst, commented, “Kim may have experienced setbacks following this second failure, but he is already regrouping and moving forward. Historically, the North has displayed resilience in the face of weapons demonstration failures, persisting in pursuit of their long-term goals.”

Earlier on the same day, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement confirming the rocket’s presence above international waters off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula after its launch from the North’s main space launch center in Tongchang-ri at 3:50 a.m. The military of South Korea asserted that the launch had indeed failed and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from employing ballistic technologies in its launches.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, described the North Korean launch as a “threat to peace and stability.” He stated that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had instructed officials to assess any damages and collaborate with allied nations. However, no immediate reports of damages were received.

In response to the situation, senior security officials in South Korea announced their intention to reinforce trilateral cooperation involving Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo to impede North Korea’s hacking and smuggling activities, both known methods of funding its weapons programs in defiance of U.N. sanctions. Diplomats from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea held discussions condemning the North Korean launch.

Notably, this was not the first launch failure for North Korea. In a previous attempt, a rocket carrying a spy satellite plummeted into the sea shortly after liftoff. In both instances, North Korea promptly acknowledged the failures and provided technical explanations for the mishaps.

Ankit Panda, an expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, highlighted that the North Korean statement was pragmatic and technical in nature, reminiscent of its previous explanations for launch failures. Panda speculated that the North Korean space agency is under pressure to succeed given its commitment to another launch in October.

As of early July, South Korea’s military had recovered fragments from the debris of the earlier failed launch. It was concluded that the satellite lacked the sophistication for advanced military reconnaissance. Despite this, experts suggested that multiple satellites of this type could still effectively monitor larger targets like warships and airplanes.

The recent launch occurred just three days after the commencement of annual military drills conducted by the U.S. and South Korea, which North Korea perceives as preparations for invasion. The North Korean state media voiced concerns about the exercises increasing the risk of nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s intelligence agency previously informed lawmakers that North Korea seemed to be gearing up for test-flights of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other provocative weapons. This was substantiated when Kim observed the test firings of strategic cruise missiles.

Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted approximately 100 missile tests, showcasing a consistent display of military prowess. While North Korea asserts that these tests are aimed at strengthening its nuclear deterrence, experts speculate that the nation’s true objective is to modernize its weaponry and thereby enhance its bargaining power with the U.S.

A spy satellite constitutes one of many technologically advanced weapon systems that Kim Jong Un has expressed an interest in acquiring. His wish-list includes items such as a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear-powered submarine, a solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile, and a hypersonic missile.

In recent years, North Korea has executed a series of intercontinental ballistic missile tests, demonstrating its potential ability to target any location within the continental U.S. Nevertheless, experts point out that North Korea still faces certain technological challenges before achieving functional nuclear missiles.

The U.N. Security Council’s inability to impose additional sanctions following North Korea’s string of missile launches underscores the division between permanent members with veto power—Russia and China—and other members who support sanctions. This divide has been exacerbated by Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.


Yuri Kageyama, a writer at Big Big News in Tokyo, contributed to this report.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Satellite Launch

What was the outcome of North Korea’s second attempt to launch a spy satellite?

North Korea’s second attempt to launch a spy satellite ended in failure once again. The rocket’s first and second stages performed normally, but an error in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight caused the launch to fail.

When does North Korea plan to make another satellite launch attempt?

North Korea has announced its intention to make a third attempt to launch a satellite in October. The National Aerospace Development Administration will study the issues that led to the recent failure to ensure a more successful launch.

How did neighboring Japan respond to the failed launch?

Japan issued a “J-alert” to instruct certain residents to evacuate to safe locations as the North Korean rocket passed over its southernmost islands of Okinawa to reach the Pacific Ocean.

What were the concerns raised by South Korea’s military?

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the North Korean rocket’s presence above international waters off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast. The launch not only failed but also violated U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from using ballistic technologies.

What response did South Korea, the U.S., and Japan plan in light of the launch?

South Korea’s security officials announced their intent to enhance trilateral cooperation among Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo to counter North Korea’s hacking and smuggling activities, which fund its weapons programs in breach of U.N. sanctions.

How has North Korea justified its weapons testing?

North Korea claims that its weapons testing is aimed at strengthening its nuclear deterrent against increasing U.S.-led military threats. However, experts believe North Korea is also seeking to modernize its weapons arsenal for strategic leverage.

What other ambitions does Kim Jong Un have regarding military assets?

In addition to spy satellites, Kim Jong Un has expressed a desire to acquire a range of high-tech weapon systems, including multi-warhead missiles, a nuclear-powered submarine, solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missiles, and hypersonic missiles.

How has the international community responded to North Korea’s missile launches?

The U.N. Security Council faced challenges in imposing further sanctions due to opposition from Russia and China. These divisions underscore deeper tensions, particularly with Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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Jasmine87 August 24, 2023 - 8:57 am

kim’s wish-list sounds like he’s playin’ space invaders. multi-warhead? nuclear sub? dude’s ambitious!

Alex August 24, 2023 - 2:19 pm

wow this NKorea launch thing keeps goin’ huh? them satellites just don’t wanna get into space!


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