by Morris Jones for SpaceDaily.com
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Nov 29, 2017
Wednesday's early morning North Korean missile launch was a rude awakening, but another predictable step in North Korea's military strategy. The missile did not fly as far (horizontally) as some recent flights, nor did it pass over Japan or approach Guam.
At first glance, the amplitude of this missile's shock factor seems relatively modest. But tuning to the Amplitude Modulation (AM) radio dial misses the real news on the Frequency Modulation (FM) band.
The frequency of North Korean missile launches in 2017 has been incredible. The latest launch is the 23rd test of this year. It all suggests a high-priority plan to develop an operational nuclear arsenal. North Korea has advertised this goal regularly, and their actions are entirely consistent with their words.
But there is still novelty in this launch. It took place in the dark hours of the morning, when visibility was limited. Launching under these conditions is useful for personnel training, and proving the ability to launch at any time, under any conditions.
At some point, the North Koreans will also need to show indifference to bad weather for launches. Tracking for the launch could have been performed optically by watching the exhaust plume, which would have been bright against the night sky. But radio transmissions would have been the prime method.
The missile launched from a location somewhere north of Pyongyang. It probably used a mobile transporter-erector vehicle, which could have been parked almost anywhere flat. The launch also demonstrates the flexibility and unpredictability of launch sites, designed to confuse attempts at pre-emptive strikes.
North Korea would have also obtained some more local gravimetric data by monitoring small changes in the missile's trajectory in the first phases of its flight.
According to US sources, the maximum altitude of the missile reached around 4,500 kilometres, higher than most satellites and higher than any previous North Korean missile launch. Actual missile attacks would never fly such a path, but this type of high-altitude launch is typical for North Korean tests.
A "lofted" trajectory means that long-range missiles can be tested on long flights that are more vertical than horizontal. The missile landed somewhere off Japan's west coast. The trajectory alone is enough to reveal that this was a test of an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), and North Korea has confirmed this.
By calling the missile "Hwasong 15", North Korea has indicated that this is a new type of system. But how different is it from previous missiles in the Hwasong family? It could feature stretched fuel tanks for longer range, or other modifications. Right now, the lack of imagery means we can only guess.
Media reports suggest that North Korea could be trying to deploy an operational ICBM in 2018 or soon afterwards. It seems increasingly likely that this goal is realistic for their rapidly developing program.
Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for spacedaily.com since 1999. Email morrisjonesNOSPAMhotmail.com. Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.
Beijing (AFP) Nov 22, 2017
China on Wednesday rejected new United States sanctions targeting Chinese traders doing business with North Korea as "wrong", stressing that it has enforced UN sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear provocations. The Chinese companies were hit by punitive measures along with North Korean shipping interests after US President Donald Trump put Pyongyang back on a list of state sponsors of terroris ... read more
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