A network of satellite experts has concluded that North Korea is lying about either the direction or the contents of its impending rocket launch, Wired’s Danger Room blog reports.
Amateur and professional spaceflight specialists analyzed the announced flight path of the rocket set to launch the 1,000-kilogram Bright Star 3 satellite this week from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. They found it inconsistent with North Korea’s plan to place the satellite in a sun-synchronous orbit from which it would study “distribution of forests” and weather patterns.
“I do not see how North Korea could reach a sun-synchronous orbit from the new launch site without risk to populated areas,” longtime satellite watcher Ted Molczan wrote on the SeeSat listserv.
“I believe that the most reasonable interpretation is that they are lying about this being a satellite launch, which has been betrayed by the incompetence of their propagandists in over-reaching in their cover story,” Molczan wrote.
Meanwhile, veteran space journalist Jim Oberg had a chance to get an up close look at North Korea’s purported satellite and was suprised by what he saw.
“The satellite did not meet the expectations I had. I have to ask myself whether these expectations may have been too narrow, but at the same time it raised questions in my mind as to how real what we were being shown was. We asked whether this was a mock-up; in fact, we kept on asking them again and again because they insisted this was a real satellite,” Oberg told NBC World News in an interview.
“The problem is the North Koreans didn’t just let us in [to the same room as the satellite], they let us get much too close,” Oberg continued. “I could’ve walked three steps and poked it with my finger. But I didn’t want to put grease and smudges on the outside because it could lead the device to overheat in space or it could change a lot of things about the electro-static environment. So you need to protect the satellite from contamination – from touching, from people breathing on it, sneezing on it. And we were all coming in covered in dust after a long road trip. They didn’t protect the satellite from any of that.”