Last updated
Mission type Earth observation
Operator NADA
COSPAR ID 2016-009A
SATCAT no. 41332
Mission duration4 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Dry mass150 to 200 Kilograms [1]
Start of mission
Launch date7 February 2016, 00:30 UTC
Rocket Kwangmyongsong
Launch site Sohae Space Center
Orbital parameters
Reference system Sun-synchronous orbit
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 465 kilometres (289 mi)
Apogee 502 kilometres (312 mi)
Inclination 97.5 degrees
Period 94 minutes, 24 seconds
Revised Romanization Gwangmyeongseong-4 ho
McCune–Reischauer Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4
Satellite launches of North Korea. 1: Kwangmyongsong-1 2: Kwangmyongsong-2 3: Kwangmyongsong-3 4: Kwangmyongsong-4 North Korean missile launches over Japan.svg
Satellite launches of North Korea. :  Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 :  Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 :  Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 : Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4

Kwangmyongsong-4 (Korean  for Bright Star-4 or Lodestar-4) or KMS-4 [2] is a reconnaissance satellite launched by North Korea on 7 February 2016.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Ukraine and Central Asia.

Reconnaissance satellite satellite collecting intelligence

A reconnaissance satellite or intelligence satellite is an Earth observation satellite or communications satellite deployed for military or intelligence applications.

North Korea Sovereign state in East Asia

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang the capital and the largest city in the country. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok and Tumen rivers and to the south it is bordered by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands.


The launch happened after North Korea conducted a nuclear test on 6 January and as the United Nations Security Council was deciding on sanctions to be placed on the country following the nuclear test. The launch was also timed to celebrate the 74th birthday of the late leader Kim Jong-il on February 16.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear detonation on 6 January 2016 at 10:00:01 UTC+08:30. At the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, approximately 50 kilometres northwest of Kilju City in Kilju County, an underground nuclear test was carried out. The United States Geological Survey reported a 5.1 magnitude earthquake from the location; the China Earthquake Networks Center reported the magnitude as 4.9.

United Nations Security Council one of the six principal organs of the UN, charged with the maintenance of international peace and security

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), charged with ensuring international peace and security, accepting new members to the United Nations and approving any changes to its charter. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations and international sanctions as well as the authorization of military actions through resolutions – it is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The council held its first session on 17 January 1946.

Kim Jong-il General Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea

Kim Jong-il was the second leader of North Korea. He ruled from the death of his father Kim Il-sung, the first leader of North Korea, in 1994 until his own death in 2011. He was an unelected dictator and was often accused of human rights violations.


On 2 February 2016, North Korea sent a notification to the International Maritime Organization stating that the country was going to launch a Kwangmyongsong earth observation satellite with a launch window of 8–25 February between 22:30 UTC and 03:30 UTC given. The notification also included the drop zones for the first stage, the payload fairing and the second stage of the rocket, which was similar to the areas designated for the launch of Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2. [3]

International Maritime Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) until 1982, is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. The IMO was established following agreement at a UN conference held in Geneva in 1948 and the IMO came into existence ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959. Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, the IMO currently has 174 member states and three associate members.

On 6 February 2016, North Korea sent another notification to the International Maritime Organization stating that the launch window had been changed to 7–14 February. [4]


Order on launching the satellite, signed by Kim Jong-un Kim Jong-un's order on launching Kwangmyongsong-4.jpg
Order on launching the satellite, signed by Kim Jong-un

The satellite was launched on 7 February 2016 at 00:30 UTC into roughly a sun-synchronous orbit well suited for an earth observation satellite, [5] using an Unha launch vehicle [6] at Sohae Space Centre in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province. [7] Regarded as sending a message to both neighboring China as well as the United States, the launch also took place on the eve of the Chinese New Year and the Super Bowl in United States. [8]

Sun-synchronous orbit type of geocentric orbit

A Sun-synchronous orbit is a nearly polar orbit around a planet, in which the satellite passes over any given point of the planet's surface at the same local mean solar time. More technically, it is an orbit arranged so that it precesses through one complete revolution each year, so it always maintains the same relationship with the Sun.

Earth observation satellite non-military satellite specifically designed to observe Earth from orbit

An Earth observation satellite or Earth remote sensing satellite is satellite specifically designed for Earth observation from orbit, similar to spy satellites but intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making etc. The first occurrence of satellite remote sensing can be dated to the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Sputnik 1 sent back radio signals, which scientists used to study the ionosphere. NASA launched the first American satellite, Explorer 1, in January 31, 1958. The information sent back from its radiation detector led to the discovery of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts. The TIROS-1 spacecraft, launched on April 1, 1960 as part of NASA's TIROS Program, sent back the first television footage of weather patterns to be taken from space. As of 2008, more than 150 Earth observation satellites were in orbit, recording data with both passive and active sensors and acquiring more than 10 terabits of data daily.

Unha North Korean expendable carrier rocket

The Unha or Eunha is a North Korean expendable carrier rocket, which partially utilizes the same delivery system as the Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile.

It was initially claimed by U.S. officials that the satellite was "tumbling in orbit" and that no signals had yet been detected being transmitted from it. [9] However, it was later reported the tumbling had been brought under control and the orbit stabilized. [10] This indicates that the satellite has established communication with North Korea.

The head of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command stated that Kwangmyongsong-4 was almost twice as large as Kwangmyongsong-3, and South Korean officials estimated the mass as 200 kilograms (440 lb). [11]

Russian news agency TASS reported on February 22nd statement by Colonel Andrei Kalyuta of Russia's National Space Monitoring Center, based on orbit of the satellite its in line with declared purpose, activity of satellite and equipment were confirmed. [12] Satellite tracker and astronomer for Leiden Observatory has Marco Langbroek captured images of the satellite on February 28th, based on long exposure images the satellite is either not tumbling or is in a very slow tumble. This is also evident by the stability of brightness of the sun's reflection when the satellite passes the camera frame. [13] [14] Bob Christy of Zarya website shared results of observing orbital periods of the satellite, it indicates satellite is not tumbling and is under control as controlled reduction in altitude of the orbit was detected. [15] [16] North Korea Tech(affiliate of 38 North) reported on findings made by Langbroek and Christy. [17] Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Jonathan Mcdowell concludes satellite is at least partially operational based on visual information and observation of satellites gravity boom being deployed. [18]


North Korea registered the satellite with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs on May 9. [19]

In addition to claiming North Korea was planning a moon mission, Hyon Kwang-il, director of the scientific research department at NADA, said the satellite had completed 2,513 orbits and had transmitted 700 photographic images in the day following its launch. [20] The satellite passes over North Korea four times a day and continues to transmit data.[ needs update ] However, international experts, such as astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, have not confirmed any transmissions from the satellite. [20]

In May 2017 North Korea has released satellite images of THAAD site in Seongju county, South Korea. [21]


Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper extra informing Japanese readers about the launch Bei misairuFa She Hao Wai 2016 Du Mai  (24587661389).jpg
Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper extra informing Japanese readers about the launch

The North Korean government organized a fireworks display on February 7, 2016 in commemoration of the launch. [22]

South Korea, Japan, the United States and other countries have accused North Korea of testing a ballistic missile (Unha is the satellite launch version of Taepodong-2) capable of hitting the United States. [6] [23] However, some experts at the time believed North Korea was still a decade away from having the capability to successfully deliver a nuclear weapon by means of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and the launch showed slow, but continuous, progress. [24] The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency stated the launch was not a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. [10]

The launch was strongly condemned by the UN Security Council. [25] [26] [27] It prompted South Korea and the United States to announce that they would explore the possibility of deploying Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), [28] [29] an advanced missile defence system, in South Korea, which is strongly opposed by China [30] and Russia. [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Kwangmyŏngsŏng programme is a class of experimental satellites developed by North Korea. The name Kwangmyŏngsŏng is from a poem written by Kim Il-sung. The first class of satellites built by North Korea, the program started in the mid-1980s. There have been five launches so far, of which two have been successful.

Taepodong-1 was a three-stage technology demonstrator developed by North Korea, a development step toward an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The missile was derived originally from the Scud rocket and was tested once in 1998 as a space launch vehicle. As a space launch vehicle, it was sometimes called the Paektusan 1.

Taepodong-2 ballistic missile

The Taepodong-2 is a designation used to indicate what was initially believed to be a North Korean two or three-stage ballistic missile design that is the successor to the Taepodong-1 technology demonstrator. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Defense assessed that the Taepodong-2 had not been deployed as a missile. The Taepodong-2 is the technology base for the Unha space launch vehicle, and was likely not intended as ICBM technology.

Timeline of first orbital launches by country timeline

This is a timeline of first orbital launches by country. While a number of countries have built satellites, as of 2018, eleven countries have had the capability to send objects into orbit using their own launch vehicles. Russia and Ukraine inherited the space launchers and satellites capability from the Soviet Union, following its dissolution in 1991. Russia launches its rockets from its own and foreign (Kazakh) spaceports. Ukraine launched only from foreign launch facilities until 2015, after which political differences with Russia effectively halted Ukraine's ability to produce orbital rockets. France became a space power independently, launching a payload into orbit from Algeria, before joining space launcher facilities in the multi-national Ariane project. The United Kingdom became a space power independently following a single payload insertion into orbit from Australia, before discontinuing official participation in space launch capability, including the Ariane project, in the 1970s.

2009 in spaceflight spaceflight-related events during 2009

Several significant events in spaceflight occurred in 2009, including Iran conducting its first indigenous orbital launch, the first Swiss satellite being launched and New Zealand launching its first sounding rocket. The H-IIB and Naro-1 rockets conducted maiden flights, whilst the Tsyklon-3, Falcon 1 and Ariane 5GS were retired from service. The permanent crew of the International Space Station increased from three to six in May, and in the last few months of the year, Japan's first resupply mission to the outpost, HTV-1, was conducted successfully.

Several Asian countries have space programs and are actively competing to achieve scientific and technological advancements in space, a situation sometimes referred to as the Asian space race in the popular media as a reference to the earlier Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Like the previous space race, issues involved in the current push to space include national security, which has spurred many countries to send artificial satellites as well as humans into Earth orbit and beyond. A number of Asian countries are seen as contenders in the ongoing race to be the pre-eminent power in space.

A number of Suborbital spaceflights were conducted during 2008. These consist mostly of sounding rocket missions and missile tests, and include other flights such as an ASAT firing. Between the start of the year and 16 July, at least 43 publicly announced suborbital spaceflights were conducted, the first of them on 11 January.

Sohae Satellite Launching Station spaceport

Sohae Satellite Launching Station is a rocket launching site in Tongch'ang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea. The base is located among hills close to the northern border with China. The spaceport was built on the site of the village Pongdong-ri which was displaced during construction. It was the site for the 13 April 2012 launch of the North Korean satellite Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, which was launched to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung. The rocket launch failed, but on 12 December of the same year Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 was successfully launched and brought into Earth orbit.

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 North Korean satellite

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 was a satellite launched by North Korea on April 5, 2009.

The Korean Committee of Space Technology was the agency of the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea responsible for the country's space program. The agency was terminated and succeeded by the National Aerospace Development Administration in 2013 after the Law on Space Development was passed in the 7th session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.


Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 or Gwangmyeongseong-1 was a satellite allegedly launched by North Korea on 31 August 1998. While the North Korean government claimed that the launch was successful, no objects were ever tracked in orbit from the launch, and outside North Korea it is considered to have been a failure. It was the first satellite to be launched as part of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng program, and the first satellite that North Korea attempted to launch.

This list is a comparison of orbital launcher families. To see the long complete list of launch systems, see Comparison of orbital launch systems.

2017 in spaceflight spaceflight-related events during the year of 2017

Notable spaceflight activities in 2017 included the maiden flight of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III on 5 June and the first suborbital test of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket, inaugurating the Mahia spaceport in New Zealand. The rocket is named for its innovative Rutherford engine which feeds propellants via battery-powered electric motors instead of the usual gas generator and turbopumps.

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 North Korean Earth observation satellite

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 was a North Korean Earth observation satellite, which according to the DPRK was for weather forecast purposes, and whose launch was widely portrayed in the West to be a veiled ballistic missile test. The satellite was launched on 13 April 2012 at 07:39 KST aboard the Unha-3 carrier rocket from Sohae Satellite Launching Station. The rocket exploded 90 seconds after launch near the end of the firing of the first stage of the rocket. The launch was planned to mark the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the republic. On 1 December 2012 North Korea announced that a replacement satellite would be launched between 10 and 22 December 2012. After a delay and extending the launch window to 29 December, the rocket was launched on 12 December.

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 or Gwangmyeongseong-3 ho 2-hogi is the first satellite successfully launched from North Korea, an Earth observation spacecraft that was launched on 12 December 2012, 00:49 UTC, in order to replace the original Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, which failed to reach orbit on 13 April 2012. The United Nations Security Council condemned the satellite launch, regarding it as a violation of the ban on North Korean ballistic missile tests, as the rocket technology is the same.

National Aerospace Development Administration North Korea space agency

National Aerospace Development Administration is the official space agency of North Korea, succeeding the Korean Committee of Space Technology. It was founded on April 1, 2013.

In the year 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests: one in January and the other in September. Additionally, the country conducted several missile tests. As consequence, the United Nations Security Council adopted three resolutions against North Korea.

In the year 2017, North Korea was involved in the 2017 North Korea crisis, along with other events. The country conducted a nuclear test in September, and several missile tests throughout the year. One of these was the country's first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14. Two missiles were launched over Hokkaido in the Japanese archipelago, in August and in September 2017.


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