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What Debris From North Korea's Rocket Launch Shows

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the picking-over-the-pieces dept.

The Military 223

Lasrick writes "David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists analyzes the debris from North Korea's December 11th Unha-3 launch. From the article: 'According to press reports, traces on the inner walls of the tank show that the first-stage oxidizer is a form of nitric acid called "red-fuming nitric acid," which is the standard oxidizer used in Scud-type missiles. There had been some speculation that this stage might instead use a more advanced fuel with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as the oxidizer. Since the Nodong engines believed to power the first stage are scaled-up Scud engines, the use of RNFA is not a surprise. There have also been claims that the stage uses a more advanced fuel called UDMH, but it appears instead to be the kerosene-based fuel used in Scuds. In his recent RAND study, Markus Schiller noted that a test Iraq performed using UDMH in a Scud engine gave poor performance, and that burning UDMH gives a transparent flame. The North Korean video of the launch instead shows an orange flame characteristic of Scud fuels (Figure 3 is an image from 12:44 into the video). These findings confirm that the stage is still Scud-level technology.'"

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First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403071)


Re:First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403153)

Yesterday I told y'all about my day. Today I wanna tell you a story about a smoke. I was smoking when this fat-ass white cop came and started bothering me. I told him to just shut up and fuck off. Well, anyway i then go to his house and find his wife. She's a fat bitch as well, but well, she was happy to suck me off. I then hung around until the daughter came back. Wadya know, her first cock was my perfect one. I fucked her three ways to sunday. While her mother watched of course. The fat cop did come back eventually and I told him what I did. His wife said she was leaving him because he had a small cock (she know knows that all white men have small cocks). His daughter told him she was going to marry a black man because, once you go black...

he broke down crying. that'll teach the fucker to mess with me.

OK it wasn't about a smoke. whatever, get fucked.

Re:First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404345)

It sounds like *you're* the smoke.

RTFA! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403363)

It's RFNA and not RNFA

whats the big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403089)

Everyone knew these were nothing more than scaled up Scuds, it's been reported on for months.

Re:whats the big deal (4, Interesting)

wmac1 (2478314) | about a year ago | (#42403223)

All the ballistic missiles and rockets are German V2 scaled ups by your logic.

N.K is now the 11th launch capable country ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite [wikipedia.org] ) and they deserve the credit. No analysis and humiliation could change the fact that a small country which has been under severe embargoes has succeeded in its technical (possibly military) ambitions.

I was not expecting them to be able to put such a heavy satellite in 500km orbit. Iran has only been able to put a sub 50km satellite in a lower orbit.

Re:whats the big deal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403691)

It always amuses me to read about how space is supposed to be this great thing for a country and the spinoffs alone are worth the cost, etc. But when some other country succeeds at launching something in space, then people rush in to slam the country.

So, space whackjobs, which is it?

Re:whats the big deal (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42404543)

The Iranian and North Korean governments are a bunch of nutbags with or without the ability to rain down destruction on the rest of the planet. Not every space shot induces panic. Not every country is as stupid or as evil as the worst example you can find.

It's also important to note that the original space race was far from benign. Sputnik was a side venture of the Soviet ICBM program and the main American efforts were also military in nature.

The people that are the most hysterical probably have a properly grounded historical perspective.

Re:whats the big deal (5, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#42403825)

They "deserve the credit"? they've got half their country starving to death behind barbed wire, the other half starving in their crumbling capitol, they're spending all their money on BALLISTIC missle technology, and they... "deserve the credit". Well step forward and claim that prize, Best Korea.

Re:whats the big deal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403907)

Have you looked at the US lately? We are not the shining example of awesome anymore. : (


Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a year ago | (#42404093)

Don't even try to compare the US to North Korea. Nothing is perfect, but NK is as close to hell as you will ever find on Earth at any point in history (maybe slightly exceeded by Khmer Rouge era Cambodia).

Re:ROFLMAO! (0, Flamebait)

Marxdot (2699183) | about a year ago | (#42404467)

Then you must have never even heard of Liberia, DR Congo, Rwanda, and so on...

Anyway, what's your justification for that extreme claim with religious undertones? Is it that you can't imagine worse horrors than what has been documented of NK? Believe me, worse horrors exist.

Re:ROFLMAO! (1, Troll)

Uberbah (647458) | about a year ago | (#42404585)

Don't even try to compare the US to North Korea.

The logic is the same - "how can you say xyz country is great when their people are suffering from abc". But yes, different scales - so shouldn't it be more embarrassing for the U.S. that it has 50 million+ people regularly going without health care? Half of it's children going on food stamps at least one point in their lives?

Re:whats the big deal (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#42404513)

Our people tend to have life expectancies in the very late 70s, and have the ability to leave the country whensoever we want. Check out the situation in N Korea, you might find that its slightly different.

Re:whats the big deal (1, Flamebait)

Uberbah (647458) | about a year ago | (#42404559)

Our people tend to have life expectancies in the very late 70s

Only if you tend to be upper middle class to wealthy. Lifespans are actually shrinking [nytimes.com] for the poor.

Re:whats the big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404295)

Iran has only been able to put a sub 50km satellite in a lower orbit.

That's a pretty big satellite...

Re:whats the big deal (1)

dragisha (788) | about a year ago | (#42404579)

Of course their first steps are primitive, and their rockets too. But rocket
engine is only a part of a space launch. Lots and lots of items of the space
launch checklist are done for NK, and they will make non-perfect items
better in future. It is great for them and great for lots of other countries
as they have shown to everybody what is attainable with resolve and normal
amounts of money. All of that under embargo of any kind imagineable.

Prices of space launch are most probably inflated beyond recognition because
of small to nonexistent competition. With more space launch capable nations
(even NK is a plus), and companies later on, more nations and companies will
be able to exploit space and we will all profit from that. From cheaper
communications to more data about our planet (more invasions of privacy as
side effect, too), real development of space technologies is probably coming
- at last. $200,000 per ticket space tourism is not a development, it is
- just one more entertainment venue for super rich.

Re:whats the big deal (1)

poity (465672) | about a year ago | (#42404717)

You mean a group of scientists and engineers whose funding has been diverted from resources that could have been used to feed people has succeeded in its ambitions. How many tons of food aid did they have to sell on the black market to achieve this? It's not a victory for North Korea, its a victory for the rulers. On slashdot, we're critical of even democratic countries in their degree of representation, and of the disparities between the will of the people and the will of the government, yet I often see this willingness to present totalitarian rulers, their people, and the concept of nationhood as a singular indivisible entity (especially on the concept of "sovereignty", but that's for another thread...).

Re:whats the big deal (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#42403603)

Everyone knew these were nothing more than scaled up Scuds, it's been reported on for months.

The big deal is that what everyone suspected (not knew) has now been confirmed by physical evidence.

why wouldn't it be? (2)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year ago | (#42403099)

I mean, it was the test of an MRBM/IRBM platform, it really is no surprise that it is only a technological hair away from its SRBM/MRBM ancestor...

North Korea (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#42403101)

I wonder how much longer this festering little hell hole will last.

Re:North Korea (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403135)

They now have an ICBM. Now they just need to miniaturize their nukes to fit on it. Next they will need submarines with nuclear missiles to protect them against a first strike. Then the only thing that will take them down will be internal strife. Considering that they are a batshit crazy country, China will prop them up as long as possible. So actually this hellhole might last pretty far into the future.

The secret to North Korea's longevity is that nobody wants to go in an clean up their mess. This is ten times more important when they have a reasonable delivery system for their nuclear weapons.

Re:North Korea (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#42403543)

I'm pretty sure America would consider going in if China weren't actively protecting them.

Re:North Korea (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#42403871)

The sad thing is, SK would have already wiped them out if America wasn't protecting NK by maintaining a huge military presence in SK.

Re:North Korea (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42404401)

No fucking way. The DPRK has artillerie that can hit Seoul. Nor do the leaders of South Korea really relish the thought of paying the huge costs of unification and bringing the North up to the standards of the South. Look at the fall of the DDR and the cost to Germany during unification. This would be worse, far worse.

Re:North Korea (5, Interesting)

CptPicard (680154) | about a year ago | (#42403601)

I'm not all that certain that China will unconditionally prop them up. They already have quite a problem on their hands with NK that they are no longer ideologically interested, and that China's real interests in international trade and so on are just hurt by any overt support of NK.

What China is interested in is that their border region with NK doesn't get flooded with refugees if NK suddenly implodes. So I'd say that China might be our best bet at encouraging internal changes inside NK.

Re:North Korea (3, Informative)

ValentineMSmith (670074) | about a year ago | (#42404171)

China wasn't really that interested in saving Kim Il Sung's hiney back in the '50's. China got involved in the Korean war because 1) they felt they needed a buffer zone between a US-sponsored South Korea and their borders, and, perhaps more to the point, 2) Mao Zedong didn't just hold grudges. He cherished them, and he was still nine kinds of annoyed at the US for backing Chiang Kai-shek during the Chinese Civil War. Yeah, Koreans fought during the Chinese Civil War, but Mao was never one to be grateful enough for someone to do something against his interest in thanks.

Re:North Korea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403143)

I wonder how much longer this festering little hell hole will last.

And I wonder what things would be like if that "hero" MacArthur put his ego aside and followed President Truman's orders during the Korean War.

That SOB should have been court-martialed and shot.

Re:North Korea (1)

penix1 (722987) | about a year ago | (#42403221)

That SOB should have been court-martialed and shot.

"Old soldiers never die. They simply fade away..."

Kerosene works well... (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#42403107)

It got us to the moon several times. Dont discount the "primitive" kerosene as a rocket fuel.

Re:Kerosene works well... (5, Informative)

Woek (161635) | about a year ago | (#42403169)

Well technically H2/LOX got us to the moon, the RP1/LOX got us out of the atmosphere... And incidentally, using LOX is a lot less primitive than using RFNA.

Re:Kerosene works well... (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about a year ago | (#42403471)

Well, if you REALLY want to be correct, hydrazine and N2O4 got us onto the moon (and back off of it again), as well as enabling us to enter (and leave) lunar orbit....

It must be mocked (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about a year ago | (#42403847)

Didn't you get the memo? A totally hostile regime armed with nukes and ICBM capabilities that we cannot attack because it holds Seoul hostage of its artillery must be mocked as often as possible in the media.

Forget Iran, forget Syria. North Korea is a Damn Serious threat that will be very difficult to solve.

Laugh at the technology (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#42403115)

But does it really matter what "technology" it uses if it can launch a bomb across an ocean? I don't think the parameters for success include "spend X billion inventing a new technology". Just the fact that they have managed to scale it up where other countries decided not to implies some sort of innovation. It's either cheaper, or they figured out a way to do it cheaper.

Re:Laugh at the technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403183)

A SCUD can't travel acrossed an ocean...I think that's the point. 330 milles or so is the longest range of a SCUD-D type.

NK likes to make a lot of claims and show "citizens" exhulting in their acheivements when it's mostly staged BS that means nothing. Now the fact that their "citizens" are living in abject poverty and under the threat of death at the hands of their government if they speak "ill" of "IL"...well that's very real!

Re:Laugh at the technology (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#42403623)

This fuel combination doesn't have a significantly lower performance than LOX/Kerosene. The fact is you can easily make an ICBM using these propellants. Their problem is they probably can't get their dry mass fraction down and the engines are old tech.

Re:Laugh at the technology (5, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42403397)

It matters: because only with the right technology you can actually launch a bomb across the ocean. Getting to orbit pretty much implies you can do it of course, the getting there part at least, analysing the technology further will let you know how well the thing was made (gives ideas on reliability and controllability), how much was imported and how much was their own work, etc. Being able to build such a rocket all by themselves means a greater threat than if everything is imported - imports can be blocked.

Also it gives an idea on how advanced their technology really is, which in turn gives an idea on their overall capabilities. If they build advanced rockets, they likely build advanced versions of other weapons too. The article mentioned they used a light-weight titanium alloy for the tank, instead of steel - showing they have access to that alloy.

The fuels used are also interesting. They use RFNA for oxidiser which can be stored at room temperature, making it not only easier to use as fuel in a rocket, it also makes it suitable as fuel for a missile which has to sit ready to launch for a long period of time. This may mean they are developing dual-use technology, it may also mean that they don't have the technology to use the more effient cryogenic fuels and have to simplify the design.

Analysing their technology can also indicate how well they can control their rockets - important for both space launches and dropping bombs on target. It seems they manage control pretty well considering they actually got an object in orbit, which is quite a feat. The obvious next step would of course be an object that stays in orbit.

No matter what, analysing the debris can tell you a lot. And that's why they're fishing up those debris parts now.

Re:Laugh at the technology (2)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#42403923)

well yea, a nuke coming at you after being launched from a trebuchet is much less dangerous then one coming at you from an ICBM.

Re:Laugh at the technology (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404011)

well yea, launching a nuke at you from a trebuchet is much more dangerous (to me) then launching one at you from an ICBM.

Re:Laugh at the technology (2)

Applekid (993327) | about a year ago | (#42404383)

Anyone crazy enough to unleash nukes at this stage in the game is going to get nuked to oblivion, whether it's blowback from their hand-thrown nuke or launched from half of everyone else.

Asia-Pacific Strategy (1)

deanklear (2529024) | about a year ago | (#42403129)

The Administration recently announced that America would focus their projection of power to the Asian-Pacific region. My guess is that the claims of a long range NK missile are either the allowance of idiotic intelligence assessments to further propaganda goals, or the outright fabrication of assessments for the same purpose.

China will squash NK like a gnat if they threaten regional stability in any real sense, but the if the United States allows that to happen, it will be a blow to perceived US power in that area. There has to be an open ended excuse for a strike or an invasion to avoid that possibility.

False Flag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403149)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_flag [wikipedia.org]

No it isn't. That's some paranoia you got going on there

Re:False Flag? (2, Funny)

deanklear (2529024) | about a year ago | (#42403293)

Who claimed the NK didn't launch the weapon? You don't understand what a false flag operation is. I'd advise you to read about the Gulf of Tonkin affair, but you'd probably walk away wondering why we fought Vietnam over little toy trucks.

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#42403267)

China will squash NK like a gnat if they threaten regional stability...

No, China will use NK to destabilize the region in order to "re-stabilize" it in a configuration more to China's liking. Unfortunately for the world, there is no such stable configuration.

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (0)

Uberbah (647458) | about a year ago | (#42404631)

No, China will use NK to destabilize the region in order to "re-stabilize" it in a configuration more to China's liking. Unfortunately for the world, there is no such stable configuration.

Sort of like how the U.S. has spent the last 10 years "reconfiguring" Southeast Asia by arming various nasty people and is now busy deploying troops and carrier fleets around the pacific?

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (2)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#42403327)

The false assumption that the US should have control the Asian-Pacific region is just as correct as the one that Russia, China or Japan should have control over the N-American region.

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about a year ago | (#42404351)

"Control" and "power" are not the same things. Really the most the US wants is leverage in developing situations in Asia. A lot of nations in East Asia are very interested in close-ish ties with the US as a counterbalance to Chinese influence/intimidation, and this has largely been successful in averting crises in the region and/or Chinese aggression in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Straight. (Though occasionally you'd have political players who didn't really get the dynamic like Chen Shui-bian who tried to use US support as a skirt to hide behind while he would repeatedly poke China with a metaphorical stick. Even though personally I'm pro-Taiwan independence and more or less pro-DPP, President Chen was really reckless and ultimately not productive.)

Being in one or another major nation's sphere of influence has consequences (both good and bad) for their respective trade relationships. However these remain rational actors and as such believe they are making net positive (or least negative) gains in whatever relationships they are pursuing, so I'm not laying awake at night.

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#42404539)

That sounds a lot more reasonable compared to the "there has to be an open ended excuse for a strike or an invasion to avoid that possibility" I responded to :)

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (2)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about a year ago | (#42404757)

Except that deanklear was largely correct. Post-Vietnam War East Asian geopolitics have been largely about maintaining the status quo at any cost. China needs DPRK to stay afloat because otherwise they're virtually guaranteed to clean up the mess and lose their buffer (a lot of Western pundits don't realize that Korea as a buffer for China is not a Cold War phenomenon, it's been the case since at least Ming/Chosun relations and the Imjin War in the late 16th century). The US wants the Korean peninsula situation to stay the same because they don't want NK to become a full-on Chinese protectorate/territory (ironically the same thing China wants, but for different reasons). Even though both countries want the status quo, they can't be seen to want it. Because both the US and China have been using SK and NK as proxies for over half a century, they must be seen to, at some level, continue to desire the original goals of the arrangement ('unified "free" Korea'). This has been mere theater for something like three decades, and actually both sides have more contingencies for preventing the "goal" than anything else.

Re:Asia-Pacific Strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403953)

Did you mean: the OBAMA administration? It's funny when people hide this aspect.

The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#42403141)

These findings confirm that the stage is still Scud-level technology.

The sub-text being that it's not that great a technology. They underestimate the fact that the rocket/missile can still inflict damage if the North Koreans decided to.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403191)

Not with out a reliable guidance system. They have old missiles they can't control.

That is not insinuation just fact.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403271)

Oddly enough, getting a few nukes within a mile or two of Los Angeles would likely satisfy them just fine...

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (1)

Nimey (114278) | about a year ago | (#42403641)

Except that the only part of the US they can reach with current missiles is a portion of Alaska. The only two other likely targets are South Korea and Japan, all of which are entirely within range.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (2)

Marsoups (934586) | about a year ago | (#42403303)

Not to mention carelessly adding to the space-junk in the atmosphere. Space needs to be co-ordinated on a global stage, not a country specific one IMHO.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year ago | (#42403523)

Not to mention carelessly adding to the space-junk in the atmosphere.

Which has the pesky habit of falling down.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (1)

Marsoups (934586) | about a year ago | (#42403555)

I meant in space, I saw the mistake after, but yes, things could fall down anywhere with NK running the show! They have a space program and happen to be one of the only countries where there is active cannabalism and starving population... Something doesn't smell right.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404527)

Oh come on! Look at what the USA did in the early days of space exploration...
Explode atomic bombs in space, send buckets full of small needles into orbit, etc.
Talk about being stupid.

And even today, the USA spends lots of money on the military while having trouble with healthcare and feeding the poor.
So before condemning others, please rectify your own behaviour.

Re:The typical West! They must insinuate...always! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404053)

The only people who would draw that conclusion are people ignorant of the damage Scud missiles have caused.

More propaganda crap. (-1)

Alex Belits (437) | about a year ago | (#42403165)

This "analysis" is pure and undiluted bullshit that makes bold claims of supposedly primitive design based on the use of one particular chemical in a very complex device.

Is this comment some kind of a joke? (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | about a year ago | (#42403233)

First of all, you can tell a LOT from this particular data point.

That aside, what are you insinuating? That a group widely and routinely chastised as espousing a "liberal" and/or "leftist" agenda by conservatives, opposed the now-cancelled US Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, and is opposed to nuclear weapons in general, is executing a propaganda campaign to make North Korea look more primitive than it really is when it comes to its rocket programs?

Are you serious?

After a veritable comedy of errors, North Korea finally has a successful launch, can't even get or keep the satellite launched from it into a stable orbit, and now an anti-nuclear advocacy group is really a secret US propaganda campaign to inappropriately embarrass the North Koreans, who are really more advanced in rocketry than all of their misadventures would indicate? The same North Koreans who just announced they have uncovered a unicorn lair [livescience.com] ?

Really? I mean...really?

Please â" I would love to hear how this is "propaganda", and how the DPRK is really a capable member of the space and nuclear clubs. To what possible end? Even IF it were true, why/how would that be a good thing?

Or is this one of those topsy-turvy bizarro-world lines of reasoning where anything and everything that is in ANY way opposed to anything related to any US or Western interest is automatically true and pure, but anything that originates from the US or West, in any way, shape, or form is always "propaganda"?

Re:Is this comment some kind of a joke? (-1, Troll)

Alex Belits (437) | about a year ago | (#42404735)

That aside, what are you insinuating? That a group widely and routinely chastised as espousing a "liberal" and/or "leftist" agenda by conservatives, opposed the now-cancelled US Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, and is opposed to nuclear weapons in general, is executing a propaganda campaign to make North Korea look more primitive than it really is when it comes to its rocket programs?

Yes. Everyone in US is infected with patriotism/nationalism at some extent, and it clouds their judgment. Americans desperately want to present people who hate them as stupid, unrefined, or at least incapable of achieving anything that may challenge Americans' imaginary dominance in all areas of human activity. This "analysis" delivers such reassurance from nothing factual.

Re:More propaganda crap. (2)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42403251)

Actually, if you read the article, it points out that you can infer the use of a low pressure room temperature (non-cryogenic) fuel from (1) the relatively thin wall-thickness of the tank, and from (2) the bottles used in the turbo-pumps to maintain pressure in the fuel tank during launch. It points out (3) that while the Scud uses steel for the body of the first stage rocket, the North Korean one uses a more-lightweight aluminum magnesium alloy.
I do agree with you that the article uses a lot of condescension in tone and uses the word "primitive" a lot to imply poor design, so there probably is a bit of propagandizing going on in order to denigrate the launch vehicle. But in my humble (and not very schooled) opinion, the analysis at least clearly lays out where it makes its inferences from and what the source of the imagery is. It doesn't seems like "pure ... BS" to me, but hey maybe I'm being taken in?

Re:More propaganda crap. (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42403467)

The problem is that "primitive design" is often read as "poor design" by non-technical people. Primitive designs may be pretty good in themselves, and work quite well, but have become obsoleted by more advanced designs. Now in how far the NK rocket design is obsolete I don't know, the article mentions at least the Russians use the same fuels to launch stuff into orbit.

And of course it's being played down. Many people don't want to see up to the fact that this country managed to put an object in orbit (didn't stay there long though), which places them in a quite short list of countries that did so too.

That said I'd much rather they'd put that much effort in actually feeding their own population. For example by getting their farming going again, instead of having to rely heavily on outside supplies.

So What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403175)

Is this thing capable or not capable of reaching orbit?

More importantly, is this thing capable or not capable of reaching targets half way around the globe? The fact is that it can very effectively reach targets on the other side of the globe.

An elitist condescension towards towards the technology, in this case, is as sensible as that attitude towards bashing someone's head in with a hammer. 'Pfft, a hammer, how crude. We use guns." The crudity doesn't really matter, in the end you're dead.

Re:So What? (1)

neyla (2455118) | about a year ago | (#42403281)

No. No.

Glad to clear that up for you.

This thing is *also* not capable of hitting anything with reasonable precision, thus even if the answer to the previous two where "yes" it'd still not hit a barn without being lanuched inside it.

Re:So What? (2)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about a year ago | (#42404185)

Actually, the answers are "yes" and "yes". Just because their first attempt resulted in an object not reaching a stable orbit doesn't mean the design is *incapable* of it.

Also, you're inference of it being unable to hit a target "with reasonable precision" is kind of irrelevant. The Norks have nukes. You don't need pinpoint precision on a nuke unless you're trying to take out small, hardened targets like missile silos. Getting within 10-20 miles of your target is perfectly acceptable if you're lofting a nuke at something as large as a city. Or, with a slightly smaller error radius, a carrier battle group.

Remember, the goal isn't necessarily to develop the capability to go toe-to-toe with a nuclear-armed enemy. The goal is to develop a weapon that gives you *political* leverage and credibility in whatever region you're aiming at. Without nukes and a nuclear delivery system, a carrier battle group is pretty invulnerable to someone like the Norks. Thus U.S. policy can be quite aggressive should we so choose. *With* nukes and a delivery system, the equation changes drastically. The Norks never have to fire a shot, yet they instantly change the game *in their favor* by vastly increasing the vulnerability of the conventional forces they would face in an armed conflict.

Re:So What? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#42404615)

You need reasonable precision so that you don't end up nuking some relatively empty bit of desert or tundra or simply dumping your nuke in the ocean.

It will be a very long time before they can field enough weapons that are reliable enough to actually do some damage before their own palaces are turned into glass.

All this does is raise the stakes and give better armed enemies the pretense to clean house for good.

where the analysis comes from (5, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42403187)

I was wondering whether the analysis was just based on video frames (since they talked about the colors of the flames and such) in the "AllThingsNuclear.org" article. The article [allthingsnuclear.org] itself says that the analysis is based upon four pieces of the first stage of the Unha-3 rocket recovered by South Korea. The author of the article, David Wright [allthingsnuclear.org] , surmises that all four pieces came from the first stage because they "were found in the same area".
The four parts found were:
1 -- oxidizer tank (made of an aluminum-magnesium alloy)
with a cool picture (fig 4) of the inside of the tank showing hoops and stringers supporting the wall
2 -- two bottles that make the "turbo pumps" to maintain pressure in the oxidizer tank as the fuel flow continues during launch
3 -- another part of the fuel tank (with the number "3" painted on the outside which is visible on the launch video)
4 -- what appears to be a support ring from the first stage body
There's also a comment at the end about using "room temperature fuels" such as RFNA (red fuming nitric acid) allowing the use of a simplified design as compared to using cryogenic fuels which require a more complex design. Someone wrote in pointing out that RFNA is also used in the Russian Kosmos 3M [wikipedia.org] space launch vehicle which is also derived from a ballistic missile. In fact, even the fins and the profile of the Kosmos looks like the fins on and the profile of the North Korean launch rocket. Pretty cool analysis, and I like that the author puts really links to the sources of the pictures he has in the article.

if it works (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403189)

if it works it works, the problem with the US is that you're the trillion dollar pink elephant in the room that spends trillion on completely USELESS technology (where 80% doesn't even work and burns up in the atmosphere...)

so basically who's the primitive moron? the one spending a few million or the one spending a few trillion...

Re:if it works (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403235)

but by all means be proud of your USA trillion dollar fail state..

NK, open up your space/missile programme (3, Funny)

Quick Reply (688867) | about a year ago | (#42403215)

Just imagine all of the PR points you could win just by letting us space nerds in on what you're doing. We'll work most of it out anyway, but take us through all the technical gore. What you are doing seems like the closest thing to launching a fully fledged rocket from your backyard using nothing but spare parts lying around, so we can definitely relate with you here.

Re:NK, open up your space/missile programme (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42403509)

And there it gets tricky. The problem is that under international sanctions NK is not allowed to develop missile technology (and the key difference between a rocket and a missile boils down to the payload).

It indeed would be interesting to see how far they really are, but I do suspect that they have not much really to brag about as in developed by themselves. They took existing designs, scaled them up (I wouldn't be surprised if that is with outside help), made some improvements, and tried them out. Some failed, now finally one worked. A significant feat nonetheless.

Time to Crush NoKo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403301)

I have felt for some years that it's time to crush the North Korean dictatorship. The longer we let them develop, the more dangerous they will be.

The problem with that idea is China-- and it may be that since NoKo's technological progress is far slower than ours (Scuds is all they can do!?) waiting as long as possible is indeed a better strategy.

But I'm debating whether we want to let them develop first strike capability.

Re:Time to Crush NoKo (1)

CdBee (742846) | about a year ago | (#42403599)

Most of the countries that have been brought out of some sort of vaguely self-imposed darkness did a lot themselves to start the process: Soviets & their colonies worked hard to produce the sort of consumer goods that the West had and to maintain a standard of living in their own bizarre way - phone lines, cars, washing machines - they might have been crude, they might have been expensive, but they were available. China's going even further in terms of introducing Western methods and their benefits

Are we in the West resourceful enough to take on stewarding a population for whom (and I invent this example as a guess, not as an insult) stainless steel blades for their scythes might be an undreamed of technical advance? Even South Korea, a population that is ethnically near as dammit identical, is so different that refugees from the North apparently suffer extreme shock and inability to cope. And what would we steward and assist them towards?.

NK is the last feudal agrarian society, in large. I would not also be surprised if it didnt prove to be deeply conservative in the way that agrarian communities often prove to be - afraid of change and unaware of alternatives. I really feel in NK we need to wait for change, or even blackmail or bribe the power structure in a way to bring it around. Simply knocking out the top echelon and leaving the other problems would be unconscionable: taking them on is a responsibility for which we may not be fit.

Re:Time to Crush NoKo (4, Insightful)

TC Wilcox (954812) | about a year ago | (#42403741)

But I'm debating whether we want to let them develop first strike capability.

Yeah, I was just thinking, "Wouldn't another war be nice?" And this whole pre-emptive strike thing has been working out so well!

You are afraid that letting them develop longer will lead to them being more dangerous. Isn't it possible that letting them develop might lead to them being less dangerous? Maybe there will be a popular uprising? Maybe with increased wealth and education will come preasure from the populace to increase freedoms? Why should popular opinion in the US be the decider and enforcer of what North Korea does? Why not let North Korea's neighbors (South Korea, China, Japan, Russia along with many, many others that are much closer) take the lead? Have we learned nothing from the mistakes in Iraq? Why are you so eager for our country to squander what wealth we have by blowing up people half a world away?

As a programmer just the inefficiencies of war (spending billions of dollars buildings things to blow up people and infrastructure) makes me weap let alone the cost in human life. I also strong suspect that all of these wars are going to make things much more dangerous for America down the road.

Re:Time to Crush NoKo (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42404705)

Isn't it possible that letting them develop might lead to them being less dangerous?

Right now, N Korea has no real potential to hurt the US. At best they can hit our remote bases in Korea and Japan.

And you're asking if giving them the capability to launch nukes into the US will make them less dangerous? That would take them from not being able to hurt America, to being able to hurt America. How exactly does that make them less dangerous?

I always enjoy the unsaid parts of the story (5, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | about a year ago | (#42403305)

Of course, nobody mentions that the Gemini missions used storable propellants not unlike what the North Koreans are using. Now, it's true that Gemini was launched with Titan rockets, and Titans were originally designed as ICBMs, but they were used for civilian purposes as well.

The more interesting part is that we recovered the missile parts. According to everything I read, the exact timing of the launch was somewhat of a surprise (maybe this isn't true) but nevertheless we managed to track the debris and fish it out of the ocean immediately. This tells the North Koreans that not only do they have no secrets, they never will have any.

To me, the North Korean rocket looks a lot more like a satellite launcher than an ICBM. The first nuclear weapons that North Korea will deploy will be very heavy, and this rocket (as tapered as it is, and with such a small, low-powered third stage) just will not carry it. ICBMs are also designed to burn quickly, as they are vulnerable as long as they are in the atmosphere and burning. This rocket burns for many minutes, as satellite launchers do.

It shows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403369)

That many cities in the US will be smoking nuclear wastelands cause N Korea still considers itself to be in a state of war with the US. Geostratigicaly aligned with China, Iran, Pakistan.

Re:It shows... (1)

Thorodin (1999352) | about a year ago | (#42404139)

Well, they are kind of correct in that the Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. Armistice: temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement between the opponents.

RNFA != RFNA (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403417)

It's not just "chemistry" it's freakin' rocket fuel chemistry and acronyms matter lest ye blow up!

Red Fuming Nitric Acid

RFNA is some nasty stuff. Worse liquid propellant oxider ever? Chlorine TriFloride (ClF3). Eats and/or combusts with everything and anything , including service & test engineers.

On the appropriateness of names (1)

CdBee (742846) | about a year ago | (#42403443)

"...the Nodong engines..."

The whole insecurity of NK is so freudian it could only be put down to having no dong..

Nodong, but it's still a giant phallus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42403451)

Nodong, but it's still a giant phallus

Idiocy? (3, Insightful)

mha (1305) | about a year ago | (#42403819)

"These findings confirm that the stage is still Scud-level technology."

Says who, a so-called "scientist" from the nation that just put the space shuttle into the scrapyard (where it belongs) - and has NOTHING to even do the same job as that old piece of junk?

As compared to what, the anti-gravity drive used by the latest US spaceships? Last time I checked EVERYONE still uses good old rockets. Oh sure - they now (occasionally) have a camera looking backwards for nice launch videos. And possibly they use fuel Y instead of fuel X - excuse me guys, you celebrate marginal, tiny advances as being far ahead of the stone-age North Koreans?

As far as getting into space, we ALL are at "stone-age" (1960s) level (i.e. rockets, huge flames, HUGE noise, lots of explosives). But today, progress is measured in micrometers, not in miles, so sure, let's celebrate how much more advanced we (the West) is compared to the most backward nation on earth.

I forgot... (1)

mha (1305) | about a year ago | (#42403857)

I forgot to add that if they manage to have the potential to get a nuclear war head to the US (territory) it does not freaking matter if they use a ballista, a rocket or beam it across space. Same outcome. I've no idea what all this "analysis" telling us how bad and backwards everything North Korean is (which I don't doubt at all) is supposed to tell the (western) public? It sounds sooooo stupid.

Re:I forgot... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42403997)

I doubt the "public" cares at all. for tech nerds it matters though.

though it would be interesting if these design approaches have some effect on maximum possible payload and navigation.

Re:Idiocy? (1)

jon3k (691256) | about a year ago | (#42404085)

The summary seems to try to draw it's own conclusion, the original article doesn't really leave the same impression. Example, from the original article:

There have also been questions about what material was used to build the body of the first stage. The body of the Scud, and likely the Nodong, is made of steel, but reports say that the tank recovered is made from a lightweight aluminum-magnesium alloy, which is typically used for aircraft. This saves a significant amount of weight, which is important to allow its relatively low-thrust engines to get the launcher up to speed.

Still amateur hour in NK (1)

johnjaydk (584895) | about a year ago | (#42403833)

NK's deterrent is still only conventional, their nuclear capability is a joke.

  • Their physics package is still very crude. They need to miniaturize it in order to have something deliverable. The results also needs to be confirmed with successful tests, so before we register more NK tests, this hasn't happened.
  • Their lifting capacity is a joke, particular when they needs to carry a first generation warhead. They need a big ass rocket to drag such a contraption over long distances, so wake me up when we see them using MON and UH25 or Aerozine 50 etc.
  • Don't even mention guidance. Their satellite shot was less than impressive. The yield of their warhead is going to be modest until they do some more development, so accuracy really matters. We need to see some test-range shoots where they develop this accuracy.
  • Deterrence requires volume. Even if NK had a single perfect ICBM, it wouldn't really matter. It would be a tragedy for the casualties but any use of that ICBM would cause a retaliation that would blast NK straight into orbit. Heck, China would have to put their dog down themselves in order to prevent the whole world from coming down hard on NK.

In short NK have made a career of being a nuisance and all their antics are little more than creating bargaining chips. NK only exists because China wants a satellite state that acts as a buffer. Let them handle the mess.

Advanced Missiles (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#42403951)

Ah, memories! RFNA and UDMH were what we used in Lance Missiles in the 70's/80's. These were aimed visually with hand cranks, a theodolite and a mirror. (a little more to the left) Interesting to see this called "advanced" in 2012.

Who's to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42404303)

Who's to say they didn't launch this rocket just to see what the rest of the world has to say about design flaws therefore doing all of the analysis work for them. Just because the the peasants can't access the real world doesn't mean the higher ups cant.

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