Activity Continues at North Korea’s Launch Station, Says Report

North Korea Unha-3 2012
North Korea preparing to launch the Unha-3 in 2012. The diminished levels of activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan province has made it a challenge for analysts to determine whether North Korea plans to send a rocket into space around Oct. 10, a major anniversary. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (UPI) — Low levels of activity at a North Korea launch pad is making it difficult to determine whether Pyongyang plans to send a rocket into orbit – but analysts said it is too early to rule out a launch that could coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.

Recent satellite images analyzed on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, indicated a movable framework for rocket support has been sliding back and forth between the Stationary Preparation Building and the gantry tower.

The absence of other major activity suggests that no rocket launch is planned for the foreseeable future. If Pyongyang was due to launch, other preparations would have been underway, including a substantial increase in fuel loading and pressure-testing activity at the fuel and oxidizer buildings, according to analysts Jack Liu and Joseph S. Bermudez

The report said the movable framework on Aug. 27 was seen at the gantry tower, a new location since mid-August – but by Sept. 1, the movable support was back at the Stationary Preparation Building.

Liu and Bermudez said a possible explanation for the movement could be operational testing. A new platform equipment and gantry tower have only been recently completed and North Korea may have been refining and practicing procedures for stacking a long-range space launch vehicle. The Sept. 1 satellite imagery also may indicate a roll up door on the movable framework could open to a part of the roof.

In Seoul and Washington, uncertainty remains regarding North Korea’s plans around Oct. 10, when the country is to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.


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