North Korea Launches Objects Into Earth Orbit
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed today (December 11 Eastern Standard Time; December 12 local time in North Korea as well as GMT) that North Korea successfully placed at least one object into Earth orbit. The launch comes despite recent North Korean statements that the launch would be delayed, and amid international condemnation that it would launch anything.
NORAD acknowledged in a statement that North Korea launched a "missile" that "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."
Just two days ago, North Korea said it was postponing the launch, scheduled for sometime in the December 10-22 time frame, for unspecified reasons. A later report said the launch of its Unha rocket would be delayed for one week. Those reports clearly were wrong, with North Korea launching within its originally specified time frame. North Korea says the Kwangmyungsong-3 satellite is for Earth observations.
This is that country's fourth attempt -- and apparently the first successful -- to put a satellite into orbit. The most recent failure was in April 2012.
Jonathan McDowell, a veteran space launch watcher who publishes Jonathan's Space Report, tweeted (@ planet4589) that three objects are in orbit "probably payload, rocket stage and attach hardware."
The launch violates two United Nations Security Resolutions designed to dissuade North Korea from launching ballistic missiles, which are close cousins of satelltie launchers. Japan and the United States reportedly have requested a Security Council meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue.
Clarification: The date of the launch has been clarified to indicate the launch was December 11 EST, but December 12 at the launch site in North Korea as well as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
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