North Korea’s Launch of Spy Satellite Fails

May 31, 2023

North Korean state media reported Wednesday that an attempt to launch a spy satellite ended in failure. 

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, “The new satellite vehicle rocket, Chollima-1, crashed into the West Sea as it lost propulsion due to an abnormal startup of the engine on the 2nd stage after the 1st stage was separated during normal flight.”

The report added that the failure was due to “low…reliability and stability of the new engine system” as well as “unstable” fuel.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s military said it recovered part of the destroyed launch vehicle. 

Even so, the attempted launch itself sent people in South Korea and Japan scrambling.

About 14 minutes after the launch, authorities in Seoul sent out text alerts to city residents urging them to prepare to move to safer places, though the Interior and Safety Ministry sent a second text about 22 minutes after that saying the first alert was sent in error, and should have only been sent to people on a front-line island closer to the rocket’s flight path. 

Around the same time, Japanese authorities activated a missile warning system for the Okinawa prefecture, which was believed to be in the rocket’s path. That alert was lifted more than 30 minutes later when the government determined that the rocket wasn’t headed Japan’s way. 

Both South Korea and Japan have increased their defense postures in recent months against threats from North Korea as well as China’s rising influence.

On Tuesday, after North Korean media had announced plans to launch its first-ever military spy satellite sometime between May 31 and June 11, Japan said it would shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory.

And last week South Korea launched its first commercial-grade satellite, which according to experts could potentially provide South Korea with the technology needed to launch its first military satellite before the end of the year.

Earlier North Korean satellites have never transmitted imagery back to the country, and ahead of Wednesday’s launch experts had asserted that images of the new device displayed recently in state media appeared to be too small and too crudely designed to process and transfer high-resolution imagery.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.



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