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.

"Since we are about three weeks away, and based on previous DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) missile launch preparations, I would not expect to see any noticeable activity at the site until about one week prior to the launch," Brown told Security Clearance.

The imagery obtained from GeoEye, taken on March 20, shows a completed launch pad, and the extension of a 15-mile rail spur that ends at the missile checkout building.

The image also shows that a rail line has been extended from the town of Ch'olsan, 15 miles to the north, and ends at the missile checkout building, according to Brown.

"This is significant because it allows the DPRK the ability to rapidly and reliable move missile stages directly from the factory outside Pyongyang," Brown told CNN. North Korea can now conduct rocket test and missile launch test operations year-round if they have the money to do so. The old site was remotely sited on the end of a long and warn road, that was subject to seasonal flooding."

The launch is expected to take place between April 12 and 16. In a notice to the International Maritime Organization regarding the "launch of an earth observation satellite "Kwangmyongsong-3," the North Korean government provided notice of where the anticipated drop zones would be for the two-stage rocket.

This is a very "routine thing," said Lee Adamson, a spokesman for maritime organization.

The notice was signed by North Korea's director general of its maritime administration, Ko Nung Du, and advised the launch would take place between 7 a.m. and noon, local time, on one of the expected days.

Ko said the the North Koreans would be using the "west sea satellite launch site in Chulsan County."

The rocket's path will go over "the South Korean islands of Baegryeong-do, Daecheong-do and Socheong-do, and then across open water until it passes between Japan's Miyako and Ishigaki islands before heading further south," according to the North Korea Tech blog which first obtained the North Korea documents and has plotted the coordinates.

The expected drop zones of the two-stage rocket are off the western coast of South Korea and to the east of Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to the blog.

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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery
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