On Saturday, North Korea carried out a widely condemned rocket launch to take a satellite into orbit, they claimed. Many commenters decried it as an attempt to test missile technology, but the isolated nation claimed it was for space-faring purposes only.
Although the true purpose of the launch is contentious, it does appear that North Korea did actually launch a satellite into orbit. It has been reported that the Kwangmyongsong-4 Earth observation satellite is in a polar orbit at a height of about 500 kilometers (310 miles).
It’s not clear what the goal of the satellite is going to be though, which entered orbit 9 minutes and 46 seconds after the launch from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan Country, North Phyongan Province. The launch took place at 9 a.m. local time on Sunday (00.30 a.m. GMT, 7.30 p.m. EST Saturday), watched by supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un.
In a video, North Korea heralded the launch, which came ahead of the celebration of the birthday of the late leader Kim Jong-il, known as the Day of the Shining Star, on February 16. “[It] is a gift of most intense loyalty presented by our space scientists and technicians to the great Comrade Kim Jong-un, our dignified party, state and people,'' a newsreader said in a video on state-run television, which you can watch below.
The rocket used for the launch was the Unha-3, which some say is a disguised missile. According to Spaceflight Insider, it has a range of more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles), enough to hit western areas of North America.
The launch comes after North Korea supposedly tested a hydrogen bomb last month. Under a 2006 UN resolution, the country is banned from conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles, causing leaders around the world to hold emergency meetings in the wake of this recent flouting of the ban.
The latest launch was a “flagrant violation” of UN laws, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, reported the BBC.
This would be the second successful satellite launch by the country, following a launch in 2012. But whether these are only for scientific purposes is a question that remains unanswered.