north korea missile map

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North Korea launched a rocket just before 8 p.m. EST (9:51 a.m. Wednesday South Korean local time), and it later fell into the ocean 200 miles east of the Philippines, Yonhap News Agency reports.

It traveled an approximate distance of about 1600 – 1800 miles. More astounding though is that no one saw it coming. After a bit of misdirection this morning when they announced a delay, many wondered if the launch would happen at all, some were already calling it a failure.

The launch is the result of a year’s worth of planning and assistance and we predicted earlier today that this launch would be a success.

North Korea has claimed that the purpose of the rocket is to put a satellite in orbit, but others say that it’s just a test for long-range ballistic missiles.

Though no satellite ended up in orbit, North Korea certainly shocked the world, and showed that anyone within a 1500 mile radius is a viable target.


Here’s what we wrote shortly before the surprise launch:

The media seemed to think that Pyongyang’s inglorious prior launch somehow dictated future failure, but we felt that disingenuous and BI Military & defence predicted DPRK success this year.

Maybe it was a reaction to the lazy media response surrounding the North’s decision to halt the launch, pull the rocket apart, and make adjustments as a laughable indication of the failure to come

We didn’t agree, and even before tonight’s launch we saw several reasons why this effort had a better chance of success than the one’s before it.

First, the proof that North Korea understood its technological limitations and sought to fill its lack of understanding was confirmed in July of this year when two DPRK agents were arrested in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.

Ukraine is the former Soviet country where 70 per cent of all the Kremlin’s Cold War ballistic missile production took place. Dnipropetrovsk, specifically, is the heart of that effort and was closed off to the outside world from World War II to 1991. In Dnipropetrovsk is a massive solid-fuel missile plant called Yuzmash, along with scholars and students exercising some of the sharpest aerospace engineering minds in the world. 

The North Koreans were caught photographing some of these students PhD dissertations marked “Secret” that held “progressive technologies in building rocket systems, spacecraft, liquid-fuel engines, rocket fuel supply systems, and other know how,” according to the Kiev Post.

If two DPRK agents were caught it seems safe to assume there were a handful of others that were not caught and returned to Pyongyang with the information they sought.

Even if there weren’t, and the only two spies sent to glean needed missile tech were busted by the Ukraine Security Service, Iran is reportedly on hand for this year’s launch.

Iran has enjoyed the fruits of Chinese ballistic missile research since at least the mid-90s and there’s little reason to imagine Tehran would not do what it could to help the North with this launch.

Reuters reported the Iranians were on site December 2, but only as the launch date was extended and the rocket brought down has Tehran denied a presence on the ground.

Regardless, delaying a rocket launch rather than plowing forth unaware of impending problems could reveal a sophistication and understanding that was not a part of North Korea’s previous long range ballistic missile launches.

And even if the delay was just the correction of an obvious problem, the care it implied suggested this launch had a better chance of success than those before it.

We’ll pull more details together overnight and explain what type of success the North actually achieved with this unexpected launch.