North Korean spy satellite explodes in flight as latest launch attempt fails

Kim Jong-un reportedly plans to launch three spy satellites in 2024

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 28 May 2024 10:04 BST
North Korea’s spy satellite explodes in flight as latest launch fails

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North Korea’s latest attempt to put a second spy satellite into orbit ended in failure after it exploded mid-air, state media said, in a blow to Pyongyang’s ambition to boost satellite surveillance of rival countries.

A video released by South Korea’s military and Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed a projectile exploding into a fireball in the night sky.

The military said the footage was filmed by an observation device on a South Korean patrol vessel.

The launch of the Malligyong series satellite on Monday “failed due to the air blast of the new type of satellite carrier rocket during the first stage flight”, North Korea’s National Aerospace Technology Administration in a statement.

An “expert review concluded that the cause of the accident was the operational reliability of the newly developed liquid oxygen and oil engine”, state news agency KCNA reported.

The satellite was launced barely hours after North Korea said it would attempt a launch by 4 June, prompting the US, South Korea and Japan to warn Pyongyang against it.

They claimed that the technology used for satellite rockets bolsters Pyongyang’s ballistic missile programme, in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

People walk past a TV showing the launch at a train station in Seoul
People walk past a TV showing the launch at a train station in Seoul (AFP via Getty)

South Korea’s military said the satellite “is presumed to have exploded in the air”.

“The South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analysing it in detail in close cooperation,” it said.

The launch was reportedly part of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s plan to launch three spy satellites in 2024. The plan was discussed during a policy meeting of the country’s top leadership last December.

After multiple failed attempts, North Korea put its first reconnaissance satellite into orbit last November.

The launch came not long after the Noth Korean leader’s visit to Russia to meet president Vladimir Putin.

Cooperation in space technology was the most openly discussed subject in their meeting at Russia’s most advanced space rocket launch site, the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Mr Putin said “that’s why we have come here” when he asked whether Russia would help North Korea build satellites.

As North Korea was preparing the latest launch, South Korea, China and Japan reaffirmed their goal of a denuclearising the Korean peninsula at a rare summit on Monday.

The North Korean foreign ministry denounced the summit as a “mockery of and trickery” against the region’s nations.

“It is an insult never to be pardoned and a declaration of war against the DPRK that the ROK, in the most hostile relations with the DPRK, attempts to force the DPRK to violate its constitution in denial of its sovereign rights,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the North and the South by their official names.

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