North Korea Gives Location of Splashdown Zones, Begins Assembling Rocket

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The South Korean Yonhap News Agency today reported that North Korea has submitted the splashdown zones of its planned launch to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Not surprisingly, these zones fall essentially on top of the zones announced for its April launch, with only small variations. That means that the launch is expected to follow the same trajectory.

This time North Korea also gave the splashdown zone for the shroud that covers the upper stage and payload during the early part of launch. The shroud is dropped when the second stage is burning once the rocket reaches altitudes where the atmosphere is thin enough that it will not damage the satellite. This zone is probably larger because of the relatively low mass of the shroud, which means it will be affected more by winds as it falls, leading to a greater uncertainty in the splashdown point.

The Korean version of the Yonhap story includes the coordinates of the splashdown points, which are shown in the map below (click on the maps for larger versions) and are given at the end of the post.

Unha-3 flight path Unha-3 early flight path

In addition, Yonhap reported somewhat earlier that a government source in Seoul said that North Korea has placed the first stage of its rocket on the launch pad, which is the first step of assembling the full rocket. In North Korea’s past two launches, this assembly has occurred about 10 days before the launch. An analysis of commercial satellite images from last week is reported to show trucks at the launch facility that carry the rocket stages, and evidence that fuel has been delivered to the pad.

Coordinates of splashdown points:

These are the vertices of the splashdown rectangles in north latitude and east longitude coordinates:

First stage:

35° 44’06 “/ 124° 30’30”

35° 44’07 “/ 124° 54’23”

34° 58’36 “/ 124° 32’32 ”

34° 58’43” / 124° 56’11 ”


33° 40’06 “/ 124° 07’47”

33° 39’51 “/ 125° 12’29”

32° 24’22 “/ 124° 07’05”

32° 24’07 “/ 125° 11’37”   (this appears to be given incorrectly in the press report)

Second Stage:

18° 13’44 “/ 123° 48’37”

18° 12’54 “/ 124° 45’20”

15° 31’07 “/ 123° 46’24 ”

15° 30’17” / 124° 42’19 ”


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About the author: Dr. Wright received his PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1983, and worked for five years as a research physicist. He was an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow in International Peace and Security in the Center for Science and International Affairs in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Senior Analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He is a Fellow of the American Physics Society (APS) and a recipient of APS Joseph A. Burton Forum Award in 2001. He has been at UCS since 1992. Areas of expertise: Space weapons and security, ballistic missile proliferation, ballistic missile defense, U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy. David also blogs on the Equation.

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