Military, Nuclear Weapons

December 2019 Update: Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand

Key Findings

  • The Chamjin-ni vertical engine test stand appears to be minimally maintained, but apparently capable and available for engine testing at any time.
  • It is North Korea’s oldest known test stand, developed in the 1980s.
  • There is no evidence of recent tests.
  • This is indicated by the absence of scarring in the exhaust deflector and color-infrared imagery showing healthy vegetation at the end of the exhaust deflector.

Located approximately 400 meters southwest of the Chamjin Missile Factory (Tae-sung Machine Factory), the Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand is North Korea’s oldest known vertical engine test stand having been established during the mid-1980s.1 It is a rudimentary test stand that is known to have been involved in North Korea’s early ballistic missile and space launch vehicles (SLV) development programs. The reported test from the test stand occurred during March 2016 when Kim Jong-un attended a test of the “…reentry of the rocket warhead tip [nose cone].”2

A satellite image acquired on December 12, 2019 shows no activity of significance at the facility. No recent tests appear to have been undertaken as is indicated by both the absence of scarring in the exhaust deflector and that color-infrared imagery shows the vegetation at the end of the exhaust deflector is healthy and not burnt.3 Additionally, there is a small building immediately north of the test stand that is either a support building of some type or an incomplete solid rocket motor test stand (it is very similar in configuration and size to the Magunpo test stand). The vegetation around this building is also healthy and not burnt indicating, that if it is a test stand, no recent tests have been undertaken.

As with all imagery of the facility during the past three years, the Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand appears to be minimally maintained but apparently capable and available for engine testing at any time.

Overview of the Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand as of December 12, 2019. (Copyright © 2019 by Airbus)
Color-infrared view of the Chamjin-ni vertical engine test stand shows healthy vegetation indicating a lack of recent testing. (Copyright © 2019 by Airbus)
A ground level view, looking southeast, of the Chamjin-ni vertical engine test stand during the March 2016 test. (KCTV)

References

Show 3 Footnotes
  1. Although the official North Korean name for the factory and the test stand are unknown the factory has been variously identified in as the Chamjin Munitions Factory, Chamjil Missile Factory, Chamjin Guided Missile Plant and the Tae-sung Missile Factory. The vertical engine test stand is most commonly referred to as the Chamjin-ni Vertical Engine Test Stand.
  2. “Kim Jong Un Guides Ballistic Rocket’s Reentry Environmental Simulation,” Rodong Sinmun, March 15, 2016.
  3. In the accompanying color infrared image, the health and type of vegetation is indicated by shades of red. Healthy grass-like vegetation is indicated by a pale reddish tint while healthy trees exhibit a brighter red coloration. Burnt grass or tress would be in shades of grey or black.