Confusion over North Korean 'satellite' amid US claims object is 'tumbling out of control'

According to US officials the object has an unstable trajectory and could crash land back to earth

Rob Williams
Thursday 13 December 2012 18:25
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This picture received from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency  on December 12, 2012 shows the rocket Unha-3, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, being monitored on a large screen at a satellite control center in Cholsan county, North P
This picture received from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on December 12, 2012 shows the rocket Unha-3, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, being monitored on a large screen at a satellite control center in Cholsan county, North P

Confusion continues to surround the operational state of a satellite that North Korea claims it has launched into orbit, amid earlier US reports that the object was 'tumbling out of control'.

Speaking to NBC news a US official said that the device, which was launched at 7.49 p.m. ET on Wednesday, had an unstable trajectory and could crash land back to earth.

The official also confirmed the object is some kind of space vehicle, but that they haven't established what it is supposed to do.

Confused reports over the operational state of the satellite have continued throughout the day with South Korea's defence ministry contradicting the US reports to say that the satellite was orbiting normally at a speed of 4.7 miles (7.6km) per second.

They also, however, confirmed that it is not known what mission it is performing.

Whilst seemingly admitting the object is a space vehicle, the US continued to condemn what they said was a rocket launch, calling it a 'provocative act.'

The United Nations security council have called it a 'clear violation' of UN resolutions. A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he “deplores” the launch.

It is thought that the problems with the unidentified object, which North Korea claims is a weather satellite, could cause it to collide with other orbiting vehicles, or indeed come crashing back to back down earth.

Norad, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, detected the launch of the missile at 7.49 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Officials have claimed initially the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea and the second stage fell into the Philippine Sea.

North Korea has claimed that the launch was an attempt to place a satellite into a pole-to-pole orbit.

The official KNCA news agency said the rocket was launched from Sohae Satellite Launch Center and that the Kwangmyongsong weather satellite went into orbit as planned.

US officials, who have not yet identified what the object actually was, have claimed the launch was a thinly veiled attempt to test a three-stage ballistic missile with the ability to hit the US West Coast.

William Hague MP, the British Foreign Secretary, was also among the international figures who described the launch – which defied a world ban on ballistic missile tests – as 'provocative'.

China, which is North Korea's only diplomatic ally, had urged the secretive country not to go ahead with the launch.

Today, Russia added to the international condemnation that greeted the launch: “The new rocket launch carried out by North Korea flaunts the opinion of the international community, including calls from the Russian side,” it said.

In 2009 a one-ton Russian satellite with a nuclear reactor collided with a 1200-pound American orbiter over Siberia. The resultant debris was as large as a school bus and reentered the atmosphere. It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

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