[FPSPACE] Associated Press reporting North Korean satellite may be tumbling; "Probably Broken"

Peter Pesavento pjp961 at svol.net
Wed Dec 19 17:34:05 EST 2012

Associated Press via Huffington Post



North Korean Satellite Malfunctioning, But Could Orbit For Years 

By ERIC TALMADGE 12/18/12 01:13 AM ET EST (Associated Press)


TOKYO -- A North Korean satellite launched into space last week appears to
be malfunctioning but could remain in orbit for several years, a leading
expert in the United States said Tuesday.

North Korea says the satellite is working. U.S. officials have said it is
tumbling in orbit, but even so, its successful launch into space marks a
milestone in the impoverished country's technological advances, especially
given accusations that the rocket launch was actually a test of systems that
could be used to launch long-range missiles targeting the U.S.

Data from trackers in South Africa and Britain suggest the brightness of the
satellite has been fluctuating, which indicates it is tumbling as it orbits.
That likely means a malfunction in the probe's stabilizers because it was
designed to constantly point toward the Earth.

Even so, the probe is continuing to complete orbits and could do so for
several years, said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics. McDowell said that since the cause of the malfunction remains
unclear, it is conceivable that North Korea could determine how to fix it
and regain control.

"The best guess at this point is that it is probably broken,'" he said by
telephone from Cambridge, Massachusetts. "It is certainly continuing to
complete orbits. It is up there and it will be up there for years. But the
thing is sort of twirling around. It seems to me the satellite is not

North Korea has hailed the launch as a gift to the nation's late leader, Kim
Jong Il, and proof that his young son, Kim Jong Un, has the strength and
vision to lead the country.

State news agency KCNA said Wednesday that the satellite is transmitting
signals of revolutionary hymns such as `Song of General Kim Il Sung,"
referring to the founder of North Korea, who is the grandfather of the
current leader.

The United States, Japan, Britain and others see the launch as a provocation
and violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from
developing its nuclear and missile programs. The Security Council has said
it would urgently consider "an appropriate response."

"This launch is about a weapons program, not peaceful use of space," U.S.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. Even the North's most
important ally, China, expressed regret.

Though missile and satellite launch technologies overlap significantly, and
Pyongyang is clearly hoping to use the rocket launches to develop a
deployable nuclear-tipped missile capable of threatening the United States,
McDowell said its apparent success in getting the satellite into orbit may
cloud efforts to further punish the North.

"For North Korea, it lets them say to their people that they are an advanced
21st century country, although they can't feed their people," he added.
"They can say that this was not a missile, it was a satellite launch. That
gives them potentially more credibility on the international stage that they
are being unfairly treated."

A similar attempt in April failed about two minutes after takeoff.

North Korean officials say a 2009 launch put a satellite into orbit, but the
U.S. and other outside observers say they have seen no evidence that it did


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