North Korea today admitted to having failed to launch its long-range ‘Unha-3’ rocket, and experts have since analyzed the available information and concluded that the cause was the failure of the first and second stages of the rocket to successfully divide.
According to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, after flying approximately 151km the rocket disintegrated into multiple pieces and came down off the West Sea coast of South Korea.
Professor Kwon Se Jin from the Aerospace Engineering Department at Korea’s leading science and technology university, KAIST, explained, “Usually a single-stage rocket fires for up to 120 seconds, but a two-stage rocket burns out and reaches around 200km altitude then uses fuel from the second stage.”
“That the rocket had not gone any further than150km shows that it used all the fuel from the first stage. The first stage fired for around 100 seconds.”
Shin Sung Taek, a visiting research fellow with the Korea Institute of National Unification (KINU) predicted, “There was probably a huge internal explosion even before the separation of the first and second stages. The fact that it broke into 20 or so pieces of debris would have been because there was an internal explosion.”
Experts in South Korea say that the cause of the explosion would have been due to imbalances between the injection of fuel and the engine burn. There will have been a problem in the control device which connects the engine and fuel, they claim.
Some experts have pointed the finger at North Korea’s packed political calendar for the failure of the rocket launch, with the launch designed to play the role of a cannon salute consolidating the role of new leader Kim Jong Eun.
One inter-Korean expert commented dryly, “North Korea is not good at holding several national events simultaneously like other advanced countries. The North Korean cadres tried to use the rocket launch as a salute announcing the coming of the Day of the Sun, but it ended in utter failure.”