Sunday, April 5, 2009
Text Fwd: [Analysis] S. Korea places weight on the possibility of a weekend N. Korea satellite launch
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Same article as below
“A satellite image taken 4:33 p.m on April 3 shows Musudan Ri, the area where a North Korean rocket launch facility is located.”
[Analysis] S. Korea places weight on the possibility of a weekend N. Korea satellite launch Experts say N. Korea may want to launch in advance of the first meeting of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly set for Thursday Posted on : Apr.4,2009 12:29 KST
North Korea says it will launch what it is calling a satellite sometime between April 4 and 8, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Government officials and experts, who are taking into account optimal weather conditions and political circumstances, are placing slightly more emphasis on the feasibility of a launch on Saturday or Sunday.
Some analysts indicate that weather is the most important factor determining the success of the satellite launch, as it has a major effect on tracking the rocket's movement and the stability of its parts. Clouds generate static electricity and affect the launch vehicle's electronic equipment, frequently causing abnormalities in flight. Therefore, any indication of snow, rain or an excess of clouds would postpone the rocket launch, since it would make it difficult to track with radar or other means.
The terrestrial wind speed must also be less than 15 meters per second (m/s). If the wind blows stronger than the rocket's load, it becomes difficult to adjust the direction of the rocket after launch. "The rocket has a lot of electronic equipment, so it is most sensitive to humidity," said a source connected with foreign affairs and national security speaking on condition of anonymity. The source added, "Among the weather variables, humidity is the most important."
An analysis of the weekend weather forecast for the launch site at Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun in North Hamgyeong Province, by South Korean military authorities and the Korea Meteorological Administration shows the skies will not be clear, but that nothing that would interfere greatly with a satellite launch is expected. Weather-related organizations predict that Saturday will be cloudy, with winds between 6 and 10 meters per second, and Sunday will be very cloudy and windy early on, with clouds and wind starting to die down somewhat in the afternoon.
Analysts predict a high probability of a Saturday or Sunday launch, if weather permits, since the first meeting of North Korea's 12th Supreme People's Assembly is set for Thursday, where some anticipate the announcement of the beginning of "Kim Jong-il's Third Term" of leadership.
"Five or so days would give them time between the rocket launch and the parliamentary session to engage in plenty of international publicity about 'the accomplishments of a strong and prosperous power,' as well as time to heighten the festive atmosphere," said Hong Hyun-ik, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute. Others are indicating that North Korea will need about five days to come up with a follow-up strategy and explanation if the satellite launch fails. Previously, North Korea had launched its Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite on August 31, 1998, five days before a Supreme People's Assembly meeting announcing the formal beginning of the "Kim Jong-il system."
Other analysts disagree and are suggesting North Korea will pay greater attention to weather factors because it feels obligated to succeed. Weather forecasts for the launch site show that the wind speed will settle to around 3 to 4 m/s on Monday and that there will be clear weather on Tuesday, strengthening indications of a Monday-Tuesday launch. Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun emphasized this possibility by saying, "North Korea absolutely has to succeed this time, so they will give priority consideration to the weather."
In fact, for North Korea's Kwangmyongsong-1 launch, it had planned to launch on an evening that was favorable for observation before ultimately changing the time. After a weather forecast predicted heavy winds and rain on the evening of the date in question, they opted to launch the satellite at 12:07 pm when the weather had cleared.
Government authorities and experts view the possibility of a launch on Wednesday, the last in the possible dates announced by North Korea, as being relatively low. To begin with, the forecast predicts that any clear weather will have clouded over again, winds will be blowing at 5 to 8 m/s, and weather conditions will deteriorate. More importantly, a Wednesday launch would carry with it the risk of leaving North Korea pressed to meet their deadline, as well as leaving little time for building up the atmosphere leading into the Supreme People's Assembly.
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