The limits of North Korea's media openness
April 12th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

The limits of North Korea's media openness

By Adam Levine

North Korea's opening of its launch pad to journalists has been a boon to North Korea watchers who have relied mostly on satellite imagery to take stock of the country's progress in developing long range missile and rocket capability. The flood of still photos and video have helped shape their understanding of what North Korea is up to.

"It is almost like a painting of the entire site," said Allison Puccioni, an analyst with IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. "I think we are learning a lot about North Korea." FULL POST

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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery
Intel windfall from N.Korean rocket launch
North Korea's Unha-3 rocket sits on the launch pad
April 11th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Intel windfall from N.Korean rocket launch

By Pam Benson

While the Obama administration is urging North Korea not to go ahead with its expected rocket launch, the launch does present one benefit: The U.S. intelligence community will get the rare opportunity to more precisely see just how far North Korea has progressed with its long-range missile technology program since its last launch three years ago.

Although North Korea says it is merely deploying an Earth observation satellite, something it has failed at doing in the past, the United States believes the secretive nation is really testing technology that would also enable it to fire a ballistic missile carrying a warhead, one that could potentially strike the United States.

But the real question is whether the rocket performs as intended, especially that third stage, which releases the satellite.
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Filed under: Asia • Intelligence • Military • North Korea • Nuclear • Satellite imagery • Technology • weapons
U.S. plans for North Korean 'two-step'
Satellite image of site where North Korea is believed to be preparing for a nuclear test. (DigitalGlobe/April 1, 2012)
April 10th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

U.S. plans for North Korean 'two-step'

By Elise Labott

As North Korea prepares to commemorate the 100th birthday of its late founder Kim Il Sung with the launch of a satellite into orbit, the United States is bracing for more drama the day after.

It's what administration officials refer to as the North Korean "two-step," in which one daring act by Pyongyang is followed by another. This time, Washington and its allies are expecting North Korea to conduct a third nuclear bomb test shortly after the launch.

In April 2009, North Korea followed up a long-range missile test with a nuclear test. Then, after North Korea sunk the South Korean navy warship Cheonan in March 2010, it topped itself later that year by shelling South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea off the countries' west coast.

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Photos of North Korea's newest rocket
April 8th, 2012
09:03 PM ET

Photos of North Korea's newest rocket

By Adam Levine

In an unprecedented move, North Korea allowed international media, including CNN's Stan Grant, Tim Schwarz and Scott Clotworthy, to visit its Tongchang-ri launch site and see, for the first time, the Unha-3 rocket being readied for its launch.

North Korean crew works on the booster stage of the Unha-3

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North Korea getting closer to missile launch?
North Korea missile launch site From: GeoEye
April 6th, 2012
05:51 PM ET

North Korea getting closer to missile launch?

By Jamie Crawford

North Korea may have begun to stack the rocket for an upcoming missile launch, according to an academic group's analysis of a recent satellite image.

The blog 38 North, run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, had access to an April 4 image from a commercial satellite firm that showed what is consistent with operations to erect a rocket in anticipation of launch.

The image revealed some sort of enclosure around the work platform of the mobile launch pad that had not been seen in previous satellite images.

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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery
NEW SATELLITE IMAGE: More activity at North Korea launch facility
April 4th, 2012
03:49 PM ET

NEW SATELLITE IMAGE: More activity at North Korea launch facility

By Adam Levine

A new image of the North Korean  launch pad at Tongchang-dong Space Launch Center (see photo above the story) shows what IHS Jane's Defense Weekly analyst Allison Puccioni says is "specific activity" on the pad, as well as at the rocket checkout assembly facility. The March 31 image was provided to CNN by GeoEye.

Read more about North Korea's missile technology

Puccioni compared the new image to a GeoEye image from March 20th and  March 28th. She notes the gantry on the umbilical tower has changed directions and more vehicles and objects are seen parked around the launch tower. What are likely fuel containers have been uncovered and stacked behind the fuel system, according to Puccioni. FULL POST


Filed under: Asia • FIRST ON CNN/EXCLUSIVE • North Korea • Satellite imagery
North Korea’s rocket began life underwater
Schematic drawing of a Taepo-Dong 2 missile by Charles Vick of GlobalSecurity.org
April 4th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

North Korea’s rocket began life underwater

By Larry Shaughnessy

If North Korea launches a missile in the next couple of weeks, as it has promised, it will be the result of international cooperation stretching from Moscow to Tehran and, perhaps, Beijing.

Experts who track North Korea's space program expect the communist regime will roll out a somewhat improved version of the Taepodong-2 (or the Unha-2 as North Korea refers to it) missile it last tested in April 2009.

The Taepodong-2 has never had a completely successful launch but, according to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "We can go back and model that (2009) trajectory pretty well. The trajectory certainly appears to be the kind of trajectory they would have used for a satellite launch."

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What to expect on North Korea's launch pad
A DigitalGlobe satellite image of North Korea's launch site at Tongch’ang-ri. The image was taken on March 28, 2012.
April 2nd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

What to expect on North Korea's launch pad

By Adam Levine

With North Korea's anticipated launch of a satellite-topped long-range missile set for within the next two weeks, more activity should soon be evident from the satellite images being collected from the skies above.

The expected launch is meant to commemorate what would have been the the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung , who founded communist North Korea and is grandfather to current leader, Kim Jong Un. The regime informed the International Maritime Organisation that the satellite will be launched between April 12 and April 16.

Some activity has already been seen in commercial imagery made available of the Tongchang-dong Space Launch Center, although the latest image showed no sign of the actual rocket. FULL POST

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Filed under: Asia • Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Satellite imagery
EXCLUSIVE: Activity seen at North Korea launch site
A DigitalGlobe satellite image of North Korea's launch site at Tongch’ang-ri. The image was taken on March 28, 2012.
March 28th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Activity seen at North Korea launch site

By Adam Levine

A new satellite image has captured increased activity on North Korea's launch pad as the country prepares for its controversial missile launch in mid-April.

The DigitalGlobe image taken on March 28 shows trucks on the Tongch'ang-ni launch pad. Atop the umbilical tower, which sits beside where the assembled rocket will stand, a crane arm that will be used to lift the rocket stages has been swung wide.

While South Korean media are reporting the first stage of the rocket - known as the booster - has been moved to the launch facility, DigitalGlobe Senior Analyst Joseph Bermudez said that is not visible in this image. FULL POST

NEW LOOK: North Korea's launch pad
GeoEye satellite image of North Korea's rocket launch pad taken on March 20, 2012
March 22nd, 2012
04:42 PM ET

NEW LOOK: North Korea's launch pad

By Adam Levine

A new satellite image of the launch pad expected to be used by North Korea next month shows no sign yet of any launch activity.

Satellite imagery company GeoEye provided CNN a new image of the site from where North Korea's controversial rocket launch will take place.

The image of the Tongch'ang-dong facility was taken on March 20 by GeoEye. It shows no missile or launch vehicle visible, according to an analysis by GlobalSecurity.org's Tim Brown. FULL POST

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