North Korea rocket test – is there any reason to be afraid ?

 

According to Reuters there are reasons to predict rocket test in North Korea.

It seems that authorities of North Korea opened season for arms race activities. After fourth nuclear test performed on 6 January 2016 and firing seven short range surface-to-air missiles on 29 January 2016 North Korea is going to show its space capabilities. Western satellites spotted intensive activity on rocket range utilized for tests of ICBM and space rockets. Signs of unusual movement were discovered on Sohae Satellite Launching Station and announced on 28 January 2016. Sohae is placed on north western coast of North Korea.

First works under Sohae Space Center were spotted in early nineties and were performed with various speed until 2008, when DigitalGlobe imaging satellite took pictures of Sohae under request of Jane's Information Group; western analysts discovered that work under new launch site are reaching end in spite of general poor situation in North Korea economy. First official information about Sohae launch site was in 2012 when North Korea officially announced about launching their satellite Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 on atop of Unha-3 rocket. It was first test of Unha-3 rocket and first launch performed on Sohae - previous failed attempt with Unha-2 was taken in 2009 from Musudan-ri Launch Facility. Success in 2012 was confirmed by NORAD and South Korean Army - object launched from Musudan-ri reached orbit. Unha-3 specification was not officially announced and informations about this rocket are not sufficient. After special press conference for foreign journalists in Sohae Unha-3 was showed by present director of Souhae launch site. From that press conference it is known that Unha-3 consists three stages with length at 30 m and mass around 90000 kg. Propulsion are four Nodong 2-1 engines (with thrust at 1100 kN), second stage is powered with unknown engine with thrust around 250 kN, third stage is powered with unknown engine with thrust at 54 kN. On October 2015, according some sources, it was planned to launch Unha-3 with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 reconnaissance satellite on atop, but since now nothing confirmed such fact both officially and not officially. Now it seems that launch of Unha-3 is getting close and probably payload will be Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite. It is described as reconnaissance satellite but due the limited possibilities of North Korean industry in optics or micro technologies necessary to build such spacecraft probably it is only a dummy. South Korea is considering Unha-3 test as concealed trial of ICBM. According to Kim Min-seok, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman:

"Our military is prepared for various types of North Korea's provocation and is ... closely and continuously observing any signs of North Korea's long-range missile launch,"

It is quite sure that in case of success of Unha-3 North Korea will announce it officially. Probably due the mentioned limitations of industry rocket technology will not be used for civilian purposes but for developing new military missiles. North Korea in spite of official sources claiming that their ICBM are able to reach USA, is still probably not in possession of reliable ICBM with nuclear warhead, but every test is confirmation that North Korea is light years from any kind of change in their international status.

You can read more about North Korean space attempts here.

Sources:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missile-usa-idUSKCN0V61TL