I visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for a one week period between the 13 and 20 November, during which I got a chance to do something truly amazing: to engage in discussions with representatives of the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) of the DPRK on November 19.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to immediately disclose information about these discussions after returning to Russia, but now I can officially tell readers about it.
Korean representatives of the organization – which is responsible for the development of prospective programs in the fields of space exploration and space vehicle development – such as head of the department Kim Jong O and head of section Kim Chol, took part in this meeting.
Currently, NADA’s plan for 2017 is being completed. The main purpose of this plan is to develop two new satellites. The first is an Earth remote exploration-satellite which weighs “over 100kg” and has a scanning resolution of “several meters.”
Although this satellite belongs to the category of 100-1000 kg equipment, an interesting detail should be noted about it. It was stated that the weight of the Kwangmyongsong 3-2 satellite is 100 kg, while Kwangmyongsong 4 was stated to have a weight of “over 100 kg.”
The second satellite is much more interesting. This is a communication satellite which works on a geostationary Earth orbit and weighs over 1000 kg.
I asked twice, and I was given an affirmative answer: I was told that a geostationary orbit will be used, and that the satellite weight will comprise over 1000kg. As I understood things, this might mean that the satellite may weigh well over a ton, even as much as two or three tons.
In any case, the proposed satellite weight and geostationary orbit will signify a completely different level of perspective to DPRK programs than the outside world is currently accustomed to thinking.
This might also include programs related to space rockets. But when it came to my questions about missiles, I was given a simple answer: my partners in conversation have nothing to do with them.
I also asked them about different past announcements regarding sending spacecraft into orbit or even to the surface of the moon. It seems that the main tasks for the years to come are so far related to the completion of application space programs for the practical needs of the country.
Motivation, equipment and personnel
It should, in particular, be noted that I was repeatedly told during the conversation that the space program is friendly in nature. Here I must agree with my partners in conversation as for when Pyongyang announced that it was going to be launching satellites, it really did so.
The story surrounding the satellite launch in the spring of 2012 played a significant role in contributing to geopolitical turbulence surrounding the DPRK at that time. At that time the North Korean side announced a moratorium on the launch of military missiles, but reported plans to launch a space rocket.
Foreign media were admitted to the space launch facility and significant information about the upcoming launch was made public. But in response to their openness and concessions, new bans and sanctions were received. The DPRK learned its lesson.
Nevertheless, the DPRK greatly needs space services and information, including from a purely civilian perspective. At the same time, their space programs should not be viewed upon simply as some kind of whim. Even the USSR experience clearly shows that for each ruble invested in Earth remote sensing systems, which were at least partially related to civil needs, at least five to seven rubles worth of positive effects resulted for the Soviet economy.
Land inventory, forecasting of crops and natural disasters, improving fishing efficiency, and a sustainable national space communication system are still to be achieved in the DPRK. But on the one hand, the country is deprived of normal free access to many commercial space services. And on the other hand, satellite launches are much cheaper for the country than Westerners think. Therefore, this is a cost-effective and expedient measure.
When it also comes to equipment, I was able to clarify some things. I was told that the space industry is undergoing “juchefication.” This means maximum technological support for their own scientific and industrial base in terms of equipment and components. The systems for tracking space objects, including special radars, are designed and produced independently.
Cadre Personnel are represented in the main educational institutions which train space industry specialists such as at the Kim II Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology. And I was told that there are already certain sections and departments, which directly train specialists to perform work in the field of space industry.
Analysis of the success of both the military missile and nuclear programs of the DPRK unambiguously indicates that Pyongyang has every chance to successfully realize its space plans in the foreseeable future, no matter how unrealistic they would seem to foreign skeptics.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
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