North Korea has succeeded in launching a ‘weather satellite’ into space. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said late Tuesday from Cambridge, Massachusetts, that the three-stage Unha-3 rocket launched early Wednesday morning delivered the satellite into orbit and constituted “a perfect success for North Korea.”
He said that based on his own calculations, an object identified by the U.S. space command as “39026, 2012-072A” was from the North Korean satellite. The apparent North Korean success comes after a rocket launch failure in April that flamed out after only 90 seconds.
North Korea claim it is a weather satellite. It seems to have a polar orbit, probably sun-synchronous. Basically, three kinds of satellites use that sort of orbit; meteorological, mapping, and spy satellites.
The former in order to monitor things like global temperature and improve weather forecast modeling, the latter two because it keeps the shadow angles the same on each pass and provides global coverage.
I seriously doubt the north koreans put a satellite up there to check for global warming or see if polar bears are stranded on ice floats. The old Keyhole spy satellites (aka Big Bird) also used these kinds of orbits. It makes sense that they would start off using that kind of orbit for a spy satellite themselves – a polar orbit grants global coverage.
Picture above: A man watches a TV screen broadcasting news on North Korea’s rocket launch, at a railway station in Seoul on December 12, 2012.