Construction Observed on North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launch site
No Further Launch Preparations Observed at Present, But a Third Attempt Likely
VOA reporter Sungwon Baik gets a firsthand look at the North’s rocket launching site. He was among foreign journalists allowed rare access to various news events inside North Korea this month. This took place in 2012. In contemporary times, North Korea has scaled both missile and Space capabilities efforts.
Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launching Station reveals ongoing construction and expansion activities around both the main complex and coastal areas. These developments mark significant progress against the plans directed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over 18 months ago.
Last week, media reports explained North Korea is focusing on its Space sector to counter "US Space militarization."
Despite two failed attempts to launch a new military reconnaissance satellite into orbit since May, the rapid succession of launches highlights the urgency Kim has placed on the satellite program, underscoring the heightened importance of the Sohae complex.
While no signs of launch preparations are observed in the latest imagery, it is worth noting that previous attempts also lacked obvious signatures leading up to the launches. In both instances, North Korea notified the international community several days in advance, although it faced criticism for not adhering to proper procedures.
At the time of this report, no new notifications have been made. If Pyongyang follows the same pattern for this upcoming launch, it is presumed to be at least several days away.
Of particular interest is the new coastal launch pad, which was rapidly constructed and completed in late May. This pad was utilized for the previous two satellite launch attempts.
Following the failed launch in late August, the large retractable shelter, covering almost half of the pad, was pulled back in early September, revealing the strongback launching mechanism covered with blue protective sheeting. Alongside it, construction or repair work was observed.
Sometime between September 8 and September 9, the retractable shelter was moved back into place and has remained there since. With the shelter covering the strongback launching mechanism, monitoring the arrival of the launch vehicle becomes impossible.
The continuous construction and expansion activities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station suggest North Korea's determination to strengthen its satellite program. Despite setbacks, Kim Jong Un remains committed to advancing his country's technological capabilities in space exploration. The Sohae complex plays a crucial role in this endeavor, serving as a hub for satellite launches.
The upcoming third satellite launch attempt, expected to happen this month, will be closely watched by the international community. North Korea's ability to successfully place a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit would not only bolster its defense capabilities but also serve as a significant demonstration of its technological prowess.
As tensions in the region continue to simmer, the developments at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station serve as a reminder of North Korea's ambitions and its quest to establish itself as a formidable player in the space arena. The international community will be closely monitoring the situation, with implications for regional security and stability.
In conclusion, the recent satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station demonstrates ongoing construction and expansion activities, indicating North Korea's commitment to its satellite program.
Despite two failed attempts, an upcoming third satellite launch attempt is expected in the near future. The developments at the Sohae complex highlight the country's determination to advance its technological capabilities and assert itself in the space domain.