Advertisement

North Korea's twice-failed spy satellite is now up and running, aerospace experts say

A rocket is seen mid-launch, with flame and a cloud of smoke at its base, and two pylons either side against a dark background. The image, released by North Korean news agency KCNA, purports to show the launch of the rocket carrying a spy satellite Malligyong-1 in North Gyeongsang Province, North Korea, released on November 21, 2023.
A rocket carrying a spy satellite Malligyong-1 is launched, as North Korean government claims, in a location given as North Gyeongsang Province, North Korea in a handout imahe released on November 21, 2023KCNA
  • A North Korean spy satellite was spotted adjusting its orbit in space, experts said.

  • South Korea had previously suggested the Malligyong-1 was inactive.

  • Little is known about it — but "we can definitely say the satellite is alive," Marco Langbroek said.

A North Korean spy satellite has made maneuvers in orbit that show it is very much "alive," contrary to previous assessments that suggested it was inactive, experts said on Tuesday.

The movements of the Malligyong-1 were spotted by a satellite tracking station in Leiden, the Netherlands. Marco Langbroek, a satellite expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said in the station's blog.

"Now we can definitely say the satellite is alive," he said.

North Korea announced it had launched Malligyong-1 into orbit in November, after two failed attempts. The launches drew condemnation from the US, which viewed them as cover for North Korea testing missile technology.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik suggested at a press conference on Monday that the satellite was inactive, saying: "It is not showing any signs of performing tasks or engaging in reconnaissance activities," The Korea Times reported.

But, Langbroek said, the tracked movements show that the satellite "at least performs orbital manoeuvers, so in that sense it is functional."

Langbroek's team tracked the satellite as it repositioned itself in a series of moves to increase the height of its orbit's perigee — the lowest point in the orbit — by about five and a half miles.

The movements also indicate that Malligyong-1 has a propulsion system, which was not previously known, Langbroek said.

"Having the capacity to raise the satellite's orbit is a big deal," he added.

A propulsion system would prolong the satellite's life by allowing it to refresh its orbit, which otherwise can slowly decay, ultimately leading to it re-enter the earth's atmosphere, he explained.

Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics backed up Langbroek's assertions, telling NK News that "the satellite definitely raised its perigee in several small burns."

Technologically, however, that feat "is not complicated at all," he told the outlet.

Much remains unknown about Malligyong-1's overall capabilities.

A week after its launch, Pyongyang claimed it had taken "detailed" photographs of multiple sites, including the White House, the Pentagon, and US aircraft carriers, The Guardian reported.

However, no images were made public.

The latest findings come as South Korea warned that Pyongyang could launch a new spy satellite as soon as March, The Korea Times reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider