North Korean rocket engine ground test – Is DPRK getting ready for next launch ?

North Korea announced about successful ground test of their latest rocket engine. Lasting over three minutes test was performed on September 20, 2016.

According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) test was conducted by National Aerospace Development Administration at Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Trial assumed verifying technical solutions used in combustion chamber, valves of the propellant system, control systems and general structure of the unit. During lasting for 200 seconds burn, engine reached maximal thrust at 784 kN. KCNA mentioned, that tested engine will be propulsion of future rocket able to reach GEO orbit; North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un stated after test fire, that rocket will be developed under special program planned for five years. It means that in 2021 Unha-3, present largest North Korean launch vehicle, will be replaced with new rocket. To show what kind of rocket is announced by Supreme Leader launch vehicle, it is worth to remind, that Nodong engines developed for Unha-3 are giving thrust at around 250 kN.

Unha-3 rocket was already launched in 2016 on February 7 with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite (or rather satellite mockup); this flight was planned for October 2015 to celebrate anniversary of establishing Workers' Party of Korea (10th October exactly). Now, performing of the engine test for future GEO rocket, previously conducted test of thermal protection system for potential nuclear warhead on March 2016  and approach of one of the most important public holiday points that authorities of North Korea probably is planning another launch of the rocket. It is quite possible, that on October North Korea will perform another rocket launch or another test of rocket technology to show its strength and potential for establishing independent access to space.

Sources:
http://www.kcna.kp/kcna.user.special.getArticlePage.kcmsf