An ongoing effort to construct a complex of new buildings connected to North Korea’s General Satellite Control Center has made notable progress in recent months, satellite imagery shows, raising questions over how the country views the future of its self-proclaimed space programs.

Progress on the buildings – thought to be connected to the adjacent National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA)-owned Control Center – has continued despite Kim Jong Un’s pledge to Donald Trump to dismantle facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, located in Tongchang-ri.

Planet Labs satellite imagery evidence reviewed by NK Pro showed major elements of the emerging multi-building complex to have been completed through the second half of last year.

And while construction slowed between November and February 2019, the construction appears to be ongoing, with lodging areas for soldier workers still visible nearby.

A timelapse shows progress on the site Between September 2018 and February 2019 | Photo: Planet Labs, edited by NK Pro

The exact intended use of these buildings, however, continues to remain less clear.

Multiple experts told NK Pro last year that the imposing architecture and other features suggested it may be used for research facilities, museum space, or to serve other ceremonial purposes related to the DPRK’s space programs.

But a ground-level photo taken from the construction site in early 2018 and obtained by NK Pro showed that a banner there attached to a crane carried the slogan “space power” – spacefaring nation – adding to evidence that the emerging buildings belong to NADA.

A banner attached to a crane carries the slogan “우주강국” or “space power” | Photo: NK Pro

For its part, North Korean state media has yet to reveal the purpose of the buildings, and neither the General Satellite Control Center or NADA has been mentioned across various state outlets since November 2017.

General construction progress at the buildings comes as reports emerged on Tuesday published by CSIS and 38 North showed construction activity at the NADA-managed Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the northwest of the country.

Activity there was cited by analysts on Wednesday as evidencing potential North Korean effort to increase pressure on the U.S. to resume nuclear negotiations in the wake of the Hanoi summit failure last week.

Images of the construction site reviewed by NK Pro revealed the involvement of Korean Peoples Army (KPA) Units 963, 985, and 932. Unit 963 was praised in state media for “having successfully built the [Satellite Control] center” | Photo: NK Pro

Both Sohae and the complex back in Pyongyang fall under NADA’s authority, with the new buildings now in the advanced stage of construction lying directly in front of the General Satellite Control Center.

Upon the center’s opening in 2015, Kim Jong Un said North Korea had “developed into a full-fledged satellite manufacturer and launcher,” and that NADA was pursuing “peaceful space development,” according to a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report at the time.

But the center was also intended to oversee launches of “working satellites essential for the country’s sci-tech and economic development and national defence,” the report said, potentially even those carried out at Sohae.

Featured image: NK Pro