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A Post-Launch Analysis of the North Korean Unha-2 Launch (2009)

North Korea tested a launch vehicle called the Unha-2 from its Musudan-ri launch site on April 5 (local time) (April 4, 10:30 pm eastern standard time).

Information that has become available since the test, and information from previous tests, has allowed a technical analysis that leads to a compelling description of the Unha-2 launcher. This analysis suggests both challenges and potential opportunities.

In particular, the analysis shows that the Unha launcher represents a significant advance over North Korea’s previous launchers, and would have the capability to reach the continental United States with a payload of one ton or more if North Korea modified it for use as a ballistic missile.

On the other hand, the Unha launcher appears to be constructed from components that were probably not manufactured in North Korea. It is likely that these critical rocket components were acquired from other countries, and in particular from Russia – although likely without the involvement of the Russian government. If these guesses are true, this could mean that North Korea’s indigenous missile capability could be significantly constrained if it can be denied further access to such components.

For a description of the analysis, see:

A Post-Launch Examination of the Unha-2
David Wright and Theodore A. Postol
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
June 29, 2009

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