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North Korea's Satellite Is Out of Control 450

Koreantoast writes "After failing on numerous occasions, North Korea has finally put a satellite in orbit. But according to US officials, it is now 'tumbling out of control.' This is bad news, and more bad news, covered in a double layer of extra bad news. From the article: 'According to US officials, it appears that North Korea's new satellite has failed to achieve a stable orbit and is now "tumbling out of control." The greatest danger is the threat of it colliding with another satellite, adding to the growing debris field around the earth.' A separate Gizmodo article provides links for tracking the current location of the satellite."
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North Korea's Satellite Is Out of Control

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  • LOL (Score:1, Insightful)

    by kc67 ( 2789711 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:45PM (#42267631)
    And they wonder why the world doesn't want them to have nuclear weapons.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:56PM (#42267759)

    Or, it was designed to be a simple parabolic missile, but NK test firing a missile is banned by the UN, so they pack in enough fuel to get to orbit, any kind of orbit, and there was never a plan to make it a stable orbit nor were there thursters on board to do so. In other words, a missile test disguised as a orbital launch.

  • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:58PM (#42267775)

    "tumbling out of control" is a bit of hyperbole from the press

    I would have to say "the greatest danger is the threat of it colliding with another satellite, adding to the growing debris field around the earth" is another fine example of that hyperbole. I mean, it's probably technically true. The odds may be infinitesimal, but still higher than the odds of any other danger.

  • On a satellite with no attitude control, seriously?

  • by Sasayaki ( 1096761 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @09:16PM (#42268009)

    Just hold on a moment.

    Okay, look. North Korea are not the world's nicest people from what we know, either to their southern neighbour or (far more commonly) their own people. Let's just get that out of the way right now.

    But seriously. Seriously. "Takes them out"? A Korea War II would be extremely costly for the western world and over what? A satellite that, worst case, smashes into one of the US Military's satellites (say a GPS one, not one so secret they'd just go "WHAT SATELLITE, IT WAS A TRAINING EXERCISE"). Then the debris takes out a few other satellites, and the GPS network takes a hit, being down for a week or so.

    That's in my mind the absolute worst case scenario, and it would be pretty bad. We use GPS for everything; the airlines would take a hit, the road toll would go up, some smart missiles and bombs would stop working.

    And you want to fucking bomb them for this? It's clearly just an accident. Sure, criminal ineptitude possibly, but that's what sanctions are for.

    There's no reason anyone should die over this even in the absolute worst case. Stop crying for war as your country plummets over the fiscal cliff of economic crisis. And, of course, you sound so confident you can win (protip: You didn't win last time).

    Are you fucking insane? Or one of those hardcore American evangelical Christians whose line of thought goes:

    God blesses America to do whatever the fuck we want. Skirmishes? Bah, bomb those Athe-commies back to nothing. It escalates to total war? It's Christians vs Atheistic Commies! God will bless us with victory. It escalates to nuclear war? Praise God, the end times are upon us! The rapture is here!

    So I repeat my question. Are you fucking insane?

  • by Cochonou ( 576531 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @09:25PM (#42268115) Homepage
    All right, calling the rocket launch a "weapon test" was not totally uncalled for, because we all know that space rocket technology is dual use by nature, and can result in the development of ballistic missiles.
    But this...
    The satellite is just a small spacecraft on a polar low earth orbit. It seems its attitude control system has failed, this is why it tumbles around. It's not the first example of a failed satellite on low earth orbit... and it's not because it is tumbling that its trajectory has become unpredictable. It will just decay in the atmosphere and burn before reaching the ground, as most low earth orbit satellites do at the end of their life. Controlled re-entries are rare, except for massive objects such as the Mir space station.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @09:53PM (#42268389)

    you're assuming the purpose has always been to launch a satellite. if they were using this as a means of demonstrating their missile delivery capabilities, they view this as a great success.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:11PM (#42268519)

    Because they had to be able to go to the moon to launch an ICBM, seems legit.

  • by Sasayaki ( 1096761 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:32PM (#42268655)

    The war would be short, yep. Over in a few days, a week or so tops.

    Okay, so now you have an impoverished third world country where the single biggest employer, the military, has been utterly destroyed, full of fanatically loyal people who hate you and will do everything to kill you even at the expense of their own lives.

    "Troops home by Christmas" was the talk during WW I, "a shadow of the Great War" was the talk during WW II, "a bunch of fishermen in mud huts" was Korea (familiar?) and Vietnam. "Kill Osama, get out" was Afghanistan and "Get Sadam, freedom will rise" was Iraq.

    If you think a conflict with North Korea would be "short" you're not looking beyond the big picture.

  • Tracking stations (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:33PM (#42268671) Journal
    You mean that the isolated nation of North Korea doesn't have a network of tracking stations that can keep the contact with the satellite over its orbital path? I am shocked...

    By the way, I dislike NK as much as anyone here, maybe a bit more as I have relatives in Japan, but nothing would ne more dangerous than underestimating them. Their second attempt at a 3 stage rocket put a satellite into orbit. If I am not mistaken, this is one of the cleanest record of any space power. Losing just one rocket is incredible.

    Building satellites is hard and the objective of this launch is unknown (unless you are willing to believe the weather-satellite-on-a-perfect-spy-orbit fable). The lack of details makes it hard to know how much of a failure this really is. If they fear it becomes a durable debris, it means it is not currently on an unstable orbit.

    NK has about 50 nukes and satellite launching abilities. It is not a laughing stock. It is a major problem for the world. Just laughing is silly. This kind of news seems to say "Haha, what clowns, we can't do anything about them so let's just mock them"
  • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:36PM (#42268697) Homepage
    You think North Korea cares about the UN? The UN can't agree that the Syrian government should be sanctioned. For launching a missile, the UN might decide to write a weakly worded statement that future misbehaving might incur a more strongly worded letter. Maybe. After weeks of negotiations and diplomacy.
  • by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:52PM (#42268781)

    Tumbling out of control also means any directional antennae are useless. If you intend sending commands to the satellite though such an antenna then you might not be able to recover the ability to control the satellite.

    The North Korean people aren't just hungry, they are starving en-masse. And the leadership is all into putting its tiny foreign earnings into dick swinging activities like this (achieving what Russia and the US did decades ago). The DPRK really is the most criminal and totalitarian regime out there.

  • by gagol ( 583737 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:57PM (#42268815)
    I feel bad for those poor people, lets focus on precisely crash on Kim Jung Un.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:03PM (#42268861)
    Whatever it is, it's not a weather satellite. Those are put into geosynchronous or geostationary orbits (west to east with slight inclination or directly over the equator with zero inclination), so they'll have the same view of the Earth all the time. e.g. If India launches a weather satellite, they want it hanging over India 24/7 so, y'know, it'll show them pictures of the weather over India all the time. Because geosynchronous orbits are so much higher (42,000 km), they require a lot more energy than low earth orbit (150-300 km).

    The North Korean satellite is in a polar orbit (north to south). You only put stuff into those highly inclined orbits if you want to maximize coverage of the Earth's surface - typically a spy satellite, though NASA's Landsat satellites are also in highly inclined orbits. The loiter time over any one spot on Earth is short, typically with a ~24 hour gap between flyovers (the Earth rotates underneath a stable orbit). Meaning without a communications satellite network or an array of receiving stations spanning the globe, you're only in communications with the satellite for a few minutes every 24 hours. But you do get coverage of the entire globe. Unless something went wildly wrong with the launch, this orbit was intentional since the spent stages fell towards the south-southwest. Most countries' early launches are to the east since you get free energy from the Earth's rotation if you launch in that direction.
  • by ks*nut ( 985334 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:48PM (#42269113)

    It may not be flat out stupidity. Perhaps it is a matter of not having the data required to make the appropriate calculations. We know everything in orbit, gravitational tug well beyond 20 decimal places on all faces of the earth. Just a couple of those missing variables could really make physics not work how you predict

    We absolutely do not know everything in orbit and I would hazard a guess that hundreds if not thousands of objects launched by the U.S and Soviet Union/CIS are now "tumbling out of control." At the birth of the space age there was a lot of room up there and they just never thought to provide a way to bring things back down to Earth in a controlled manner. The countries lambasting the North Koreans need to collectively drink a large cup of shut the fuck up until they clean up their own acts.

  • by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @12:39AM (#42269349) Homepage Journal

    [you posit that its hyperbolic to say there is a risk of satellite collisions] "I mean, it's probably technically true The odds may be infinitesimal, but still higher than the odds of any other danger."

    You must not have seen space junk 3d [] []

    Because in it, they discuss at length, and 3d model, the 2009 collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos-2251. ( [] ) which most certainly did occur recently and definitely in our lifetimes.

    Their thesis was that it will become more and more of a problem unless people start taking it seriously and not just writing it off as a one time fluke, as you are.

  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @05:57AM (#42270615) Homepage Journal
    This is North Korea we're talking about. The level of incompetence they have displayed, repeatedly and publicly, is difficult to overstate. Quite frankly, botching their first attempt at a satellite launch (something the Soviet Union got right on their first try in 1957) is small potatoes compared to some of their other attempted shenanigans.

    Among other things, the tallest structure in the country (a would-be hotel in the capital) was started in 1987, was originally intended to be completed by mid 1989 for some locally important event or another, and at this time is still not ready for use. They're currently hoping to _partially_ open the still-incomplete building in 2013, although one wonders where they think they're going to find enough tourists to fill a hundred-story hotel, even if they do ever finish it.

    (Lonely Planet's writeup of the country is interestingly clever, particularly the way it manages to put excessive positive spin on things and yet still not make the country sound like an even remotely interesting tourist destination. The only landmark attraction they specifically mention is a mountain, which they call "one of the most stunning sights in North Korea", although they do also claim that the capital city has "a few sites worth visiting".)

    Nobody in the Dilbert comic strip has ever approached North Korea's level of incompetence.
  • Exactly a nuke isn't gonna be worth much if you can't even hit within 20 miles of your target, especially since what i read on their nuke tests had the thing about a little over half the Hiroshima bomb. So with a nuke that weak (as far as nukes go) you are not only gonna have to have a delivery system accurate enough to get within a couple of miles of the target but you're also gonna have to be able to get it to burst at just the right height for maximum damage.

    But from the looks of things what we have here is similar to what a lot of third world dictatorships have tried to do, and that is take the old Scud designs and just make it bigger with more stages. Problem is the Scud was basically a rocket artillery system, it just wasn't ever designed for long range accuracy because that is what the Soviets had the ICBMs for, but of course they didn't export their ICBMs (that I know of, could be wrong) so all these different countries, Iraq, Iran, NK, built around the Scud because that is what they could get their hands on.

    So I really think this is a combo of weenie waving and insurance, weenie waving so they don't look as weak as they actually are and insurance to keep someone like the UN, China, or the USA from deciding that regime change is in order. All that will end up coming of this is they'll end up getting some more aid to prop them up awhile longer and when that runs out you'll have another weenie waving event to remind the world they are still there and to get another aid check.

    But we have yet to see them have a 100% successful test of their rockets and from what we have seen these things couldn't hit a barn the size of Kansas, much less target the USA with the thing. Hell I'd be more worried about the damned thing blowing up over NK and having radiation spread all over the Korean peninsula than I would be them actually being able to target a US city, they just don't seem to have the expertise.

  • Our leaders aren't psychopaths...they are sociopaths, there is a difference you know. Psychopaths will do things that aren't in their best interests whereas with American politicians no matter who ELSE has to get screwed they are getting the money and the book deal, count on it.

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