North Korea said its new liquid oxygen engine caused the downfall of its latest spy satellite and blew it up in midair

North Korea said its new liquid oxygen engine caused the downfall of its latest spy satellite and blew it up in midair
  • North Korea's latest spy satellite exploded midair, Pyongyang admitted on Monday.

  • Its state media reported that the problem was likely due to its new liquid oxygen and oil engine.

  • North Korea has repeatedly been trying to launch satellites in the last year, but almost all have failed.

North Korea said on Monday that its latest spy satellite launch failed, with its rocket exploding during the first stage of flight that evening.

State media Korean Central News Agency cited an unnamed vice director of the country's National Aerospace Technology Administration, who said preliminary analysis pointed to problems with the rocket's new engine.

The vice director said the mishap was caused by the "reliability of operation of the newly developed liquid oxygen and petroleum engine," per a translation by KCNA Watch, a US- and Seoul-based website that tracks North Korea's state media.

The space official said his team would investigate other possible reasons for the failure.

Pyongyang has attempted three other satellite launches in the last year, though two were confirmed to have failed. All were condemned by the US, Japan, and South Korea as provocations and are signs that North Korea has been able to circumvent sanctions to build its space program.

In November, North Korea successfully launched its Malligyong-1 satellite and claims it still functions in orbit.

South Korea assessed in February that the satellite is no longer communicating with the ground. However, several international space experts said that they observed signs of activity on the Malligyong-1 days later.

Monday's failed launch was an attempt to put the Malligyong-1-1 in space.

Seoul said it detected fragments in North Korean waters about two minutes after the rocket was launched toward the Yellow Sea, national broadcaster KBS reported.

South Korean officials released a black-and-white video of the scuppered launch showing what appears to be a fireball in the sky. They said the footage was taken from an observation boat.

The attempted space launch has been blasted by South Korea, which they said North Korea warned them about. Seoul scrambled 20 jet fighters, including F-35As, as a precaution.

Japan also condemned the launch, saying it lodged a strong complaint to North Korea through its embassy in Beijing.

"A few minutes after launch, it disappeared over the Yellow Sea," Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said of the rocket. "Therefore, we presume that no object was launched into space."

Kihara added that North Korea has said it intends to launch three more satellites this year.

The US Indo-Pacific Command called the launch "a brazen violation of multiple unanimous UN Security Council resolutions, raises tensions, and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond."

It further warned that North Korea appeared to have launched the satellite using technology from its international ballistics missile programs.

North Korea is sanctioned by the US and its allies, with a focus on limiting its nuclear weapons and space programs. But South Korea has been warning that Pyongyang is still able to pull off satellite launches with Russia's help.

The US and Ukraine have accused North Korea of supplying Russia with artillery ammunition and say Pyongyang has been receiving raw materials, food, and assistance from Russian experts. North Korea has denied its participation in any arms exchange with Moscow.

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