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.
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Revealed:  North Korea's upgraded nuke test site
Location of possible command bunker at suspected nuclear test tunnel at Pung-gye-Ri nuclear test site in North Korea
January 24th, 2013
09:00 PM ET

Revealed: North Korea's upgraded nuke test site

By Pam Benson

Satellite imagery of a North Korean nuclear test site identifies what could be key installations that would likely play a prominent role if Kim Jong Un orders a test, which the government threatened to do on Thursday.

The analysis of the Pung-gye-Ri Nuclear Test site by U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North blog shows recently completed structures essential to an underground nuclear weapons test.

One is believed to be a command and control bunker. Another photo shows what appears to be a radio relay system that zigzags through a valley, which the 38North analysts believe could be used as part of a communications system linking the bunker to the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang.

Why sticks won't work with North Korea

"Located about 150 meters (164 yards) north of the test tunnel entrance, the bunker, used only when a test is about to be conducted, would contain equipment for controlling the nuclear device, managing instruments for gathering test data and communicating with authorities in Pyongyang," the report stated. "The bunker would also provide shelter for all personnel in the area."

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North Korea's preparation for missile launch heats up, image shows
A satellite image from December 4 provided by GeoEye shows the North Korean launch site.
December 4th, 2012
08:06 PM ET

North Korea's preparation for missile launch heats up, image shows

By Jamie Crawford

North Korea appears to be working toward its goal of launching a rocket later this month, with a new satellite image showing preparations continuing around the site.

The December 4 image provided to CNN by satellite imagery company GeoEye shows increased activity by workers on the launch pad, an imagery analyst told Security Clearance. The launch pad activity was not evident in an image from DigitalGloe taken three days earlier.
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Filed under: North Korea • Satellite imagery
Satellite image shows activity at North Korea launch site
November 26th, 2012
07:59 PM ET

Satellite image shows activity at North Korea launch site

By Adam Levine

A new satellite image shows increased activity at a North Korean launch site, suggesting a new launch could be possible in the next few weeks, according to the satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe.

The United States has seen activity on the launch pad but does not believe a launch is imminent, U.S. military sources tell CNN's Barbara Starr.

The image at North Korea's Sohae satellite launch station was taken on November 23 and shows similar preparations as was witnessed ahead of the failed April 13 attempt to launch a satellite on top of a long-range missile, the DigitalGlobe analysis concludes.
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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery
Satellite images suggest North Korean working on missiles, group says
A new version of North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile sits on a launch pad prior to its launch last April. (CNN Photo)
November 13th, 2012
02:45 AM ET

Satellite images suggest North Korean working on missiles, group says

By Jethro Mullen

Undeterred by the embarrassment of a failed rocket launch earlier this year, North Korea appears to be pressing ahead with the development of long-range missiles, according to an analysis of satellite images by a U.S. academic website.

Drawing on commercial satellite imagery, the website 38 North suggests that the reclusive North Korean regime has carried out at least two tests of large rocket motors at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station on the country's west coast since April.

That's the same site from which the nuclear-armed North launched a long-range rocket on April 13 that broke apart shortly after takeoff. Pyongyang said the rocket was supposed to put a satellite in orbit, but the launch was seen by many other countries as cover for a ballistic missile test.

The most recent test of a large rocket motor at Sohae took place in mid-September, according to the analysis posted Monday by 38 North, which is run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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Satellite imagery shows ramped-up work at North Korea reactor
July 13th, 2012
12:46 AM ET

Satellite imagery shows ramped-up work at North Korea reactor

By Adam Levine

New satellite imagery obtained by CNN's Security Clearance shows increased activity at a North Korean nuclear facility.

The imagery, provided to Security Clearance by GeoEye with analysis by Allision Pucionni at IHS Jane's, shows the extent of construction at the Yongbyon light water reactor since construction resumed this spring on the facility.

The satellite snapshot from June 24 shows components have been added to the reactor building, including across the open roof, according to Puccioni, a senior imagery analyst at IHS Jane's. A "traveling crane" can be seen and is believed to have been added in April.

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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery • Yongbyon
Satellite images show North Korea building rocket launch pad
An April 15th GeoEye satellite image of North Korea's launch facility at Tonghae shows existing facilities (outlined in white) and construction of new rocket assembly and launch sites (outlined in yellow)
May 23rd, 2012
01:31 PM ET

Satellite images show North Korea building rocket launch pad

By Jennifer Rizzo

New satellite images show that North Korea is building a rocket launch pad and assembly center with similarities to a facility in Iran, according to an analysis by the defense publication IHS Jane's.

New construction at Tonghae, a facility on the country's eastern coast that was previously referred to as Musudan-ri, appears in satellite images taken by GeoEye in April.

Jane's calls the construction "major" and says it appears to include work on a launch pad or engine test stand. While construction is in its early stages, some components, including fuel housings, are similar to those at the Semnan Space Center in Iran, according to Jane's.

This is the same site of failed satellite and missile launch attempts in 2006 and 2009. The recent April 13 satellite launch that ended in failure took place at the newer and larger Sohae Satellite Launch Station on North Korea's west coast.

A new building is also being constructed in a small village at the center of the Tonghae site, Jane's says. Analysis of the size and layout of the building by Jane's suggests it will be a horizontal assembly and checkout facility for rockets. This building is also similar to the recently completed rocket assembly and checkout facility at Semnan in Iran.

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Filed under: North Korea • Satellite imagery
Signs of new activity at North Korea's nuclear test site
A DigitalGlobe image taken on May 9, 2012 reveals heightened activity at North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ni.
May 22nd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Signs of new activity at North Korea's nuclear test site

By Jennifer Rizzo

Activity is ramping up at North Korea's nuclear test site, a sign that the country is preparing for a test, according to analysis of new satellite images by the defense publication IHS Janes.

Mining carts and excavation equipment at Punggye-ri's tunneling area can be seen in satellite images taken by Digital Globe and GeoEye in the past month.

Earth and debris are being removed from the tunnel in the largest quantities seen so far, according to the Janes assesment.

An image from mid-April shows a full mining train, including an engine and several carts, outside of the tunnel. 

And a more recent shot on May 9 reveals new road networks at the site along with carts and a vehicle at the facility.

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Filed under: North Korea • Nuclear • Satellite imagery
Satellite image shows Iran active at controversial site
May 9th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Satellite image shows Iran active at controversial site

New satellite imagery shows signs of increased activity at a key site in Iran that is the focus of International Atomic Energy Agency suspicions regarding the country's nuclear program, according to an analysis of the image by Washington-based weapons experts.

The DigitalGlobe image of the Parchin site from April 9, 2012 shows a stream of water from the building which is supsected of containing a chamber to conduct explosives testing for potential nuclear weapon, according to the assessment by David Albright and Paul Brannan from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). The ISIS analysis also points out items lined outside the building which were not evident in previous satellite images.

The image raises suspicion Iran could be trying to clean out the facility, Albright and Brannan write in the report. FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Satellite imagery
First female chief for spy satellite agency
Launch of National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite
April 25th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

First female chief for spy satellite agency

By Pam Benson

The glass ceiling has cracked a bit further as another woman is appointed to lead one of the big five U.S. intelligence agencies.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, announced Tuesday that Betty Sapp will take the helm of the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that oversees the nation's supersecret satellite systems.

Sapp, who joined the intelligence community in 1997, has served as the NRO deputy director for the past two years. She will replace Bruce Carlson, who announced his departure will be July 20.

In a written statement, Clapper praised Sapp as "a smart, exceedingly professional and unflappable leader ... who has already established herself as an expert in her field."

The DNI also touted Carlson's accomplishments, noting the NRO had launched six satellites in just seven months last year.

Sapp becomes the second woman to head a key intelligence agency. Letitia "Tish" Long was appointed director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in August 2010.

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • ODNI • Satellite imagery
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