North Korea Announces Rocket Launch February 8-25

February 3, 2016

North Korea informed that International Maritime Organization that it would launch an earth observation satellite between 7:00-12:00 (Pyongyang time) during the date range of February 8-25, 2016. North Korea also included estimated splash down zones for the first and second stage of the rocket.

The 2016 splash down zones (indicated in red, below) resemble the ones announced in April 2012 (white) and December 2012 (yellow). It is likely that North Korea intends to use the same rocket as its previous satellite launches.

Google Earth image

Google Earth image

Recent satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launch Center indicates that North Korea is preparing for a rocket engine test or the launch of a long-range rocket. Since December 2015, commercial satellite imagery indicates vehicle and equipment movement, and the clearing of snow around both the rocket engine test stand, the main launch pad, and facilities and accommodations for high-level personnel.

The Sohae Satellite Launch Center is North Korea’s newest and most advanced launching station located on its west coast near Tongchang-ri. Construction since 2014 indicates that North Korea will expand its launch activities at Sohae. The gantry tower was extended to prepare it for a much larger rocket than has ever been seen in North Korea. New support facilities on the main pad, extended rail lines, and refurbishment of its fuel and oxidizer support mean that North Korea is able to keep its rocket hidden from view and can prepare for launch more quickly than ever before. The rocket engine test stand has also been refurbished with facilities capable of sheltering equipment from satellite view.


CNS experts are available for comment:

Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program (EANP)

Melissa Hanham, Senior Research Associate, EANP

Catherine Dill, Research Associate, Export Control Program

David Schmerler, Research Associate

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