Launch Preparations at Sohae Satellite Launching Station
- Latest satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station shows satellite launch preparations at the original launch pad, along with rapid construction underway at the new coast launch pad.
- Imagery from May 30 shows vehicles at the launch pad that could transport elements of the space launch vehicle and/or fuel oxidizer tanks.
- These launch preparations are likely connected to North Korea’s announcement on May 30 that its first-ever reconnaissance satellite will be launched sometime in June.
- Any reconnaissance satellite launch would involve the use of ballistic missile technology, which would violate existing UNSC resolutions. If successful, the satellite will provide North Korea with an immensely improved capability to monitor U.S. and South Korean military activities and locations within East Asia and the world.
Earlier today, North Korea announced that its “military reconnaissance satellite No. 1 [is] to be launched in June.”1 This announcement came a few days after Japanese media reported that North Korea notified Japan and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of its plan to launch the military reconnaissance satellite between May 31 and June 11.2 The Japanese prime minister also issued a warning about the impending satellite launch following a Japanese Coast Guard announcement of a satellite launch between these dates.3
Latest satellite imagery from May 30, 2023, of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station shows satellite launch preparations at the original launch pad, along with rapid construction underway at the new coast launch pad.
Original Launch Pad Area
At Sohae’s original launch pad area, the rail-mounted transfer structure, which was recently rebuilt, is now in front of the umbilical tower, and the work stands on the tower are folded back. Work stands are typically folded back to allow a rocket or missile to be placed on the rail-mounted launch platform at the foot of the umbilical tower. Several vehicles, potentially for transporting fuel and oxidizer or a rocket, were also present on the launch pad. However, no rocket has yet been observed on the launch platform itself.
New Launch Pad Under Construction
The May 30, 2023, image shows rapid construction progress at the new coastal launch pad. The rail-mounted environmental shelter appears externally complete and has been moved forward over to the launch pad’s strongback, likely to complete work on assembling the strongback and launch platform. The surrounding lightning towers and light/camera towers appear complete, and numerous construction vehicles are present.
- “Ri Pyong Chol Makes Public Stand for Bolstering up Capability for Self-defence,” KCNA, May 30, 2023. ↩
- “N. Korea notified Japan of plan to launch satellite between May 31 – June 11: Kyodo,” Yonhap News Agency, May 29, 2023. ↩
- “北朝鮮による「衛星」と称する弾道ミサイルを発射する旨の通報に関する総理指示 (Prime Minister’s instructions regarding the notification of North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile purported to be a “satellite”)”, Prime Minister’s Office of Japan, May 29, 2023; “(緊急情報)衛星ロケット打ち上げ ((Urgent Information) Satellite Rocket Launch),” Japan Coast Guard Maritime Information and Communication System, May 29, 2023. ↩