March 19 (UPI) — The test of a new high-thrust rocket engine was hailed as a “great leap forward” by North Korea, state media reported Sunday.
Saturday’s test at the Sohae satellite launching facility in North Pyongan Province measured the thrust power and movement in the engine’s combustion chamber, as well as the engine’s structural safety and reliability, the Korean Central News Agency said in a report.
In September, North Korea announced the successful ground test of a new type of “high-power engine,” apparently for launching satellites.
The test site is close to where North Korea launched four extended-range Scud missiles into the Sea of Japan earlier this month.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who ordered the start of the test, oversaw it from an observation post, the KCNA reported.
“The whole world would soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Kim said the “development and completion of the engine would help consolidate the scientific and technological foundation to match the world-level satellite delivery capability,” according to the report.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a CNN analyst, said the improvements of the rockets could help North Korea develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Some of these technologies which the North Koreans are including in their rocket expansion program actually have to do with a covert method of firing missiles without being detected in advance of actually exploding the devices,” Hertling said. “The types of warheads and the amount of weight that are in the missile itself have to be launched off of a pad. And the better they can improve their technology to do that, the more accurate these systems are going to be — not only from leaving the pad, but also going into the atmosphere and then hitting the target on the other side.”
Pyongyang said its satellite program is for peaceful use. The United Nations has banned North Korea from conducting long-range missile tests.