Is North Korea testing new rocket engines?
An image from May 16, 2013 of the rocket engine test stand at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station shows the possible aftermath of rocket engine tests in North Korea
July 11th, 2013
12:00 AM ET

Is North Korea testing new rocket engines?

By Jamie Crawford

North Korea appears to be moving ahead with efforts to improve and possibly modernize its long-range rocket capabilities, according to an analysis of new satellite photos.

Engine tests for the North's long-range rocket program appear to have taken place in late March or early April of this year, analysts at 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, have concluded.

"They conducted at least one test of an engine for a long-range rocket, and there may have been more," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the blog and studied the images.

Over the course of several weeks, the images show the appearance of possible fuel tanks, burned vegetation and a seven-car train parked near the rocket assembly building that might have been used to transport equipment and propellants to the test site.

The site of the latest testing also appears to be the same site from where a long-range rocket successfully launched a satellite into orbit in December. A similar test launch from the same site in April 2012 was deemed to be a failure.

North Korea shouts 'look at me' with rocket

While another test of a long-range rocket does not appear to be imminent, the North still faces a wide range of international sanctions for a program many feel might be a cover to develop long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching vast distances.

Wit says the latest activity could possibly mean the North got enough data and experience from the most previous launches and could afford to focus on other aspects of the program instead of rushing to another test launch. He stressed it is never certain what the current motives of the regime are.

"It's not a full-up test, like what happened in December or April, but it's part of that process and its one that doesn't get a lot of attention from the outside world either," he said.

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. In home personal training

    Of course they are! They think having a missile that could hit America is everything they need. They will be successful too. That's why we are building our shield.

    April 2, 2014 at 8:05 am | Reply
  2. saeed

    north korea should shove a nuke up usa and britains a s s let the irish ghanaian potato farmers from dublin halfbreeds get blown sky high .

    July 12, 2013 at 5:55 am | Reply
    • Chris H

      Hey Saeed. Do us all a favor and go blow yourself up in Yemen or something.

      July 12, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
    • USMC1371

      Your wasting good oxygen please stop.

      July 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
    • Mark

      This guy is proof that an I.Q. score can, in fact, be a negative number.

      July 14, 2013 at 1:57 am | Reply
    • buggs bunny

      YO SAEED – ANY KNOWLEDGE OF BASES WHICH HAVE USED THE ENVIRONMENT TO COVER LAUNCHERS – UNDERGROUND MILITARY EQUIPMENT

      July 31, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
  3. whothehell

    so what... any sovereign country should be able to develop their own technology...
    is US not doing the same ?

    July 12, 2013 at 12:18 am | Reply
    • buggs bunny

      of course – unless it goes against us interests of course ; )

      July 31, 2013 at 9:51 am | Reply
  4. jyves95

    Looks like South Korea is going to accept to feed them more.. to "officially" save Canada from NK nuclear missiles. Unplug everything and let them starve. Let the NK army continue what the y do the best.. fishing and crabbing to feed themselves.

    July 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  5. Nick

    North Korea has never developed a weapon they have not sold. They don't really have fear of the south or a new US invasion. This is to make money. Their nuclear tests are marketing tools to foreign governments, and rockets are a value add for their product.

    July 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  6. North Korean Observer

    There has been a great migration of fish off the coast of North Korea. Every fish within 25 miles of the coast has migrated out of range of North Kore's missles and have swum 26 miles from the North Korean mainland.

    July 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  7. donjgen

    No, they have proven they are very trustworthy

    July 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  8. sly

    Korea has never done anything to us, so I say let them test engines in their own country.

    It's not like America, which blew up nuclear weapons in about 30 nations waters to test.

    July 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • jyves95

      30 nations? Really? Beside lying, what else can you do? I bet you're not able to list all nuclear sites used by the US.

      July 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      @sly,who do you think we fought against back in the 50s between America,S.Korea against N.Korea.And N.Korea just threw away their agreement in the armistice saying with N Koreas UN they might launch rockets S.Koreas way..Come on bud get with the program ,this is old news...

      July 12, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
  9. bdby

    AWH, here we go again. That little imp will start screaming and throwing tantrums of threats once again. Again he will want Obama to call him to sooth him and offer him oil and rice. Unfortunately, Obama, being the momma that he is, will give in and give it too him, just to shut him up and get nothing in return but peace and quiet.

    July 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • Think

      Obama will not give in like you state and he did not make any call to Korea the first time which shows your facts are clearly wrong. It is also painfully clear to see that you really have no clue on how world affairs or diplomacy works.

      July 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
      • USMC1371

        Your right he didn't that's why he had kerry do it for him. Mob mentality keep your hands clean and let the minions do the job.

        July 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Pete

        @usmc1371,yes let Pres.Obamas people in that State Dept with Kerry handle it with diplomacy something most republican presidents never were able to do properly right marine...Bush would've tripped over his tongue again and started another useless,senseless war and hey marine you might get called back to active duty in some God forsaken hell hole just like you wanted to fight in for something you have no idea what's its all about like oil right!!

        July 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  10. If it plays in Pyongpang

    Thank goodness for the "Pad Cleared" label affixed to the empty pad. I would have otherwised reached the conclusion they were testing an invisible missile.

    July 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • km2148

      It's a rocket engine test stand used for static fire testing of just an engine not an entire missile. I'm not sure what the pad is for or it's significance. But the lack of any vehicles on the pad would be a possible indication there isn't any activities going on currently.

      July 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  11. Steven Glansberg

    Merica.

    July 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  12. USARox

    I would love to see Europe or anyone else besides the US stop government genocides from occurring all over the world. Look at the history of our "policing" and you'll see we've saved millions of lives. You idiots can't look past your own nose. If any other country had the balls to do what we do, we wouldn't have to sacrifice our people to save everyone's asses.

    July 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • Joe M.

      The image of some of our NATO "allies" who RAN OUT OF AMMUNITION during the minor conflict with Kadaffy shows how weak and dependent they have become. Many of the troops of these countries do best at ceremonial parades where they can wear their brightly colored uniforms with shiney buttons, gold braid and knee length shiney boots.

      July 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  13. St Xavier

    North Korea is a pain in the worlds A– an we all know it, really what can they do to us the USA not much. What we really need to do is build a China like wall 360 degrees around North Korea an let them alone let them kill each other off. If by chance NK nukes some one then it will be time to pull there plug an let them go down the drain hole of history NO MORE NK.

    July 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  14. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Just in time to put Iran nukes on them !!!
    AWESOME
    Hope & Change
    Yes WE Can

    July 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  15. scottclark52

    A description of the rocket has been leaked. Described as new advanced rocket, it has a very large cylinder attached to the top of a very tall telephone pole that is painted bright red and has a green rope coming out the bottom of it. There are also rumors that the North Koreans are working on a "Worlds Largest Cigarette Lighter" project to get into the Guinness Book of world records.

    July 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  16. GT

    United States shot off a missile last week and tried to shoot it down, but failed. No one except the United States can do this. I think the UN should put sanctions on the United States.

    July 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • ptsbob

      What can only the US do, fail to shoot down a rocket. Hey the Chinese can destroy satellites in space

      July 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  17. CommonSensed

    Just ask that basketball guy with all the tattoos. He'll set the story straight.

    July 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  18. Awesome

    BS

    July 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  19. Julian Assange

    America tests weapons regularly and MURDERS much more people all over the world with them, often CIVILIANS!
    Why is it North Korea that shown up on the news?

    July 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • Brad

      you clearly don't know what your talking about

      July 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
      • Julian Assange

        I KNOW EXACTLY what I am talking about although it may not be immediately visible from people brainwashed by the government propaganda!

        July 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Awesome

      Its because America owns the most marketed global news media companies and Hollywood. They use movies to make others look like bad guys since the beginning of Televisions existance. With years of big corporations and governments influence, most people are hypnotized to support or agree to what ever the the government tells the news media companies to say.

      July 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Reply
      • Joe M.

        Poor North Korea !! All they have to brainwash their people with is murder, torture, life imprisonment and starvation.

        July 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Think

      It is Very Clear you have no idea what you talking about you are brain washed with conspiracy theories!

      July 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
      • sly

        "Think", some Americans are actually intelligent enough to know that Korea has never harmed anyone, but the US has detonated Nuclear Weapons in over 30 nations.

        Learn to read some time. You might be especially interested in the chapters about US underwater nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

        July 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Think

        Sly last time I checked the last nuclear test in the Pacific was in the 1960's which is very irrelevant to the present. I am very aware what I am talking about I have a PhD in History and Polotics I have probably read and wrote more articles then you can comprehend.

        July 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • USMC1371

        Think,
        Really???????? Then tell me what "polotics" is? Durp

        July 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • THE TRUTH

      are you considering the fact that civilians have NO HUMAN RIGHTS? say somthing bad about there midget prsident , and you get life in jail! listen to south korean radio life in jail , think before you speak, you dont know what you are talking about, go live in NK and let us know how you like it, IDIOT!

      July 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Reply
    • Joe M.

      Have you ever seen a North Korean political prison where whole families consisting of three (3) generations are confined to slave away their entire lives in misery and degradation for some minor or imagined crime? Please meet with North Korean defectors to hear their life stories.

      July 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  20. Geoff

    Well they did open the trade center with S. Korea it is possible that they purchased a used Hyundai and are planning to power a rocket with the engine from one of those.

    July 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  21. FedUpwithLA

    Why don't we just bomb them and get it over with? Because we will be the aggressor, right? Why wait until they CAN nuke us so that we will have limited options in our reply? Isn't it time we shut this frat-boy wannabee up once and for all?

    July 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Reply
    • Epacific

      Maybe because we used our resources to bomb Iraq- which had no WMDs, while leaving North Korea, alone.

      July 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  22. us_1776

    Rockets now.

    Food later.

    .

    July 11, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
  23. rosie

    Colin Powell at the UN. Anybody remember that dog and pony show?? This picture, what does it prove? Where is it? Who cares anyway.

    July 11, 2013 at 11:52 am | Reply
  24. JohnnyInSNJ

    That's why they suddenly want to talk.

    July 11, 2013 at 11:28 am | Reply
  25. Joe (Houston, Texas)

    Remember when this guy was considered a threat? Me neither.

    July 11, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
  26. Martin

    It's only a matter of time before the south and the north go to war. The only thing stopping it now is ( we wont mind our business ).

    July 11, 2013 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • RedSox fan

      We would have to get involved because the United States and South Korea have a mutual defense treaty.

      July 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  27. Reggie

    The US is just waiting until they can actually do damage here before we stop it. Something about making it fair.

    July 11, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  28. moedingo

    USA...the world police!

    July 11, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
  29. USMC1371

    Who cares????? Anything to keep from covering what is going on here at home. Watch the bouncing ball.......

    July 11, 2013 at 7:00 am | Reply
    • sly

      Exactly. We should publicize what's going on here in America, because these are GREAT times.

      President Obama killed America's #1 enemy of all time.
      Our stock market is at a new all time high heading towards 20,000.
      We have strong health care reform, and immigration reform is coming soon.
      We've made it legal for couples of different races to marry, and eliminated government discrimination againest gays.

      Best of all – NO major foreign terrorist attacks under our strong President.

      Good times America. You should be enjoying them

      July 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
      • USMC1371

        Where you get your kush? I need some of that your in a fairytale.

        July 12, 2013 at 12:03 am |
      • nancy

        Great points!! Why doesn't anyone notice that the stock market has doubled in past 4 years???? If certain people would get out of the way it could be even better....

        July 12, 2013 at 7:50 am |
      • Pete

        @Nancy,yah with no help from those ignorent,racist republicans no less..One minute they're against immigration now they're for it,against cutting loan rates for college student loans now for it..Typical delushional ,uninformed ignorents just like those who comment on here and you know who you are kiddies and in denile as well!!Can't wait till midterms,can you say goodbye republicans ,I can!!

        July 12, 2013 at 9:15 am |
      • USMC1371

        Sly, nancy, pete
        Explain to me why more people are on food stamps and living on welfare? Could it be because those making money on the stock market are those evil 1%?
        Why did the dow drop so much with just a comment about cutting the billions of government funding?
        Why did the dems not scream when Obama gave those big bad business a waver on meeting the mandates of the new law but not individuals?

        Keep your head in the sand if you want.

        July 13, 2013 at 6:15 am |
      • Pete

        @USMC1371,tell me marine why then are the republicans screaming foul about cutting funding for the MIC when they were for it during the sequester negotiations.When republicans almost voted unanimously for the sequester thinking that Romney would win in the election and they could step in and change the defense cuts in the sequester afterward but marine Romney lost and now like everything else republicans touch it all goes to hell in a hand basket doesn't it!!Remember bud its democrates in Roosevelt that help create SocialSecurity and LBJ that helped create Medicare but all I remember republicans creating was the Great Depression by Hoover also straightened out in 12 years by democrate Roosevelt and now the Great Recession created by your imbecilic hero from Texas in Bush being fixed by democrate Pres.Obama..We democrates build this country up only to have republicans knock it down,check your history bud as republicans in presidents have either created or got us into more wars than democrates ,another known fact and if Bushs were president today I'd say we'd probibly be in another war in Syria,Egypt or God knows where else .You'd be the boots on the ground again fighting for something,someone you know nothing about as usual right marine.Just like in Vietnam,Iraq or Afghanistan,you think about it marine all useless,senseless wars all manned by American forces that should of never as usual been there!!!Americas insistence in meddling in other countrys businesses internationally makes us our own worse enemy,think about that if you can still lace up your own boots marine!!

        July 13, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • pery

        Pete how bout u go fight some ones war plus immigration is illegal those people need to get here like regular people

        July 14, 2013 at 2:55 am |
      • Pete

        @pery,if immigrations illegal bud how the hell did your relatives get here and are you one of those REGULAR PEOPLE WE READ ABOUT...And I'm advocating peace bud get your head out of your nether regions,read much ,obviously not!!You must not be too smart either because if you understood what I wrote you'd agree but again the catch word with you is SMART,NOT!!

        July 14, 2013 at 9:22 pm |

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