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Explainer: The North Korean Rocket Launch

Rockets: more fun in the Philippines
by Mikey Agulto | Apr 12, 2012
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According to several news sources, today, Thursday marks the start of the launch period of North Korea’s space-bound rocket. The rocket, they say, could potentially be a weapon of destruction. Local astronomers claim such event is not a cause for alarm, but shit, that’s nowhere near reassuring. Our peace of mind is very much absent right now, so we decided to read into it.

So what is this rocket we’re talking about, really?
North Korean officials announced that its new rocket, the Unha-3, will launch an Earth-observing satellite between April 12 and April 16 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. It is a three-stage rocket meant as an unmanned space launch vehicle that will carry a satellite into orbit.

Sounds noble and fancy. So why are we doubting this?
Observers in the United States, Japan, and South Korea are claiming that the Unha-3 rocket test is a ballistic missile demonstration in disguise, meant to verify its own military weapon technology. While one may assume that said countries are just bitter about it, we will have you know that North Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend future missile tests in exchange for food aid last March. NoKor, as you may have heard, is an impoverished nation.

A poor country with supreme technology? Please elaborate.
Painfully ironic, we know. The North Korean government chose to invest on military and technology advancement over welfare. The Unha-3’s mission is to launch a satellite called Bright Shining Star 3 – a polar orbiting Earth observation satellite that will reportedly monitor forest resources, natural disasters, and weather conditions.

How is it that we’re the only country worried about this?
Remember when we said the rocket has three stages? Its flight path will carry it southward, with the first stage dropping into the Yellow Sea and the third stage falling into the ocean waters around the northeastern part of the Philippines.

And don’t think government officials are only being paranoid – Japan has experienced the hassles of a North Korean rocket launch in 1998, with the rocket falling 60 kilometers off the country’s East Coast, a close call. This is why both Japan and South Korea vowed to shoot down any pieces of rocket that could potentially fall off. Here’s the problem: our country doesn’t have the resources to follow their footsteps.

North Korea’s relatively close proximity to China, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines makes it difficult for them to find a decent launch range, which could lead to injuries and territorial damage.

Is there a chance for this not to happen?
Actually, we should aspire for it to happen. North Korea’s two previous attempts at a satellite rocket launch failed miserably, with earlier versions of the Bright Shining Star crashing at random parts of the ocean in1998 and 2009. Outside observers confirmed its failure, but official North Korean channels claimed both attempts were a success. So is third time a charm? Does the idea of rocket parts falling off the PH sound charming enough for you?

Finally, is there anything we can do about it?
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is on alert in case the rocket veers off course and hits land. Says NDRRMC Director Benito Ramos: “It is highly unlikely but it is probable. And contingency plan is pumunta ka indoors.” The Joint US Military Advisory Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Foreign Affairs Department are also monitoring any developments, so at least our country’s best is on guard. That sounds a bit reassuring after all.

Source: and

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