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2017 Oct 22
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Rocket Trajectories


Kwangmyongsong 3-2 Launch, 2012 December 12


2012 December 1, North Korea announced it would make a second attempt to launch the Kwangmyongsong 3 satellite. The first try ended in failure 2012 April 12 when the first and second stages of the launch vehicle did not separate cleanly.

A press release from the Korean Central News Agency set out the detail:

"The DPRK plans to launch another working satellite, second version of Kwangmyongsong-3, manufactured by its own efforts and with its own technology, true to the behests of leader Kim Jong Il.

"Scientists and technicians of the DPRK analyzed the mistakes that were made during the previous April launch and deepened the work of improving the reliability and precision of the satellite and carrier rocket, thereby rounding off the preparations for launch.

"The polar-orbiting earth observation satellite will blast off southward from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 in the period between December 10 and 22.

"A safe flight path has been chosen so that parts of the carrier rocket that might fall during the launch process would not affect neighboring countries.

"At the time of the April launch, the DPRK ensured utmost transparency of the peaceful scientific and technological satellite launch and promoted international trust in the fields of space science researches and satellite launch. The DPRK will fully comply with relevant international regulations and usage as regards the upcoming launch too.

"The launch will greatly encourage the Korean people stepping up the building of a thriving nation and offer an important occasion of putting the country's technology for the use of space for peaceful purposes on a new, higher stage."


Launch and Orbit

The orbit appears to be as for the April 12 launch attempt which seemed to have been aimed at 500 kilometres, sun-synchronous. It involved an ambitious dog-leg manoeuvre by the Unha-3's third stage to avoid overflying other countries' territory, principally China. If this launch succeeds then we will know if the manoeuvre was genuinely to be attempted.

The launch time has not been mentioned but if there is a requirement for specific lighting conditions to operate Kwangmyongsong 3-2's onboard imaging system then it may be aimed at the same time of day that was used for the April mission, and maybe with a slight adjustment to allow for it being a different season of the year. Kwangmyongsong 3-1 was launched at 22:38 UTC, 07:38 local time. The earliest date mentioned in the official press release equates to December 9 UTC as the Korean time zone is 9 hrs ahead.

A NOTAM issued Dec 1 for the launch shows similar impact areas as did the one for the earlier launch attempt. It covers from 22:00 UTC to 03:00 UTC the following day. The earliest date is December 9 and it defines daily launch windows through to one starting on December 21. The times are precisely the same as for April, confirming the probability that launch will occur around 22:38 UTC on the chosen day.

On the plot, April's impact zones are marked in grey outline.


Unha to SS



Orbit Parameters

Here is Kwangmyongsong 3-2's orbital data taken from the Zarya launch list for 2012.

2012-072
Unha 3
Sohae Launch Centre, North Korea
2012 Dec 12, 00:49
Kwangmyongsong 3 (Lodestar 3)
2012-072A
39026
in space
Reportedly for remote imaging. Mass 100 kg. Precise launch time 00:49:46 UTC, about 140 min into the window. Released from launch vehicle at 00:59:13 UTC. Launch vehicle followed a dog-leg ground track to avoid overflight of China and The Philippines during the ascent.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
desc node
local time
2012 Dec 13, 17:4169180.006049858295.4497.4116708:59
2016 Feb 7, 22:5168760.004546752994.5897.2612507:20
KMS 3 rocket (Unha 3)
2012-072B
39027
in space
Launched Kwangmyongsong 3, finished in higher orbit than the satellite.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
2012 Dec 13, 19:1869210.006649858995.5197.41169


Radio Transmission Frequency

With the attempt to launch Kwangmyongsong 2 in 2009, North Korea said the satellite would be broadcasting a mixture of songs in praise of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and telemetry. The frequency was given as 470 MHz. Prior to the first Kwangmyongsong 3 launch, similar comments were forthcoming.

From this, it was reasonable to conclude that the same would apply to Kwangmyongsong 3-2. So it needed observers on the look out for a modulated signal near 470.00 MHz.

After reaching orbit, the first opportunities to pick up signals were from South and North America, on northbound passes in the few hours immediately after launch. About eight hours after launch, it came within range of Europe with a series of southbound ground tracks. No transmissions were reported on the first day or on any subsequent days and the unkindest comments on the subject came from people who suggested that the satellite did not carry a transmitter and was simply dead weight in orbit.


Page Date: 2012 Dec 1
Updated: 2015 Dec 20

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