뉴욕타임스는 이번 북한정권의 미사일 발사가 기술적으로 실패라고 보는 전문가들의 견해를 종합적으로 소개하였다.
1. 인공위성이라고 주장하는 물체와 3단계 추진체는 분리되지 않고 함께 궤도에 진입해야 하는데, 2, 3단계와 탑재물체가 함께 태평양에 떨어졌다. 낙하 위치도 북한당국이 예고한 곳에서 수백 km나 벗어났다. 2단계가 분리에 실패한 것으로 보인다.
2. 1998년 대포동 미사일 발사 때도 궤도진입에 실패, 2006년엔 발사 직후 폭발, 이번에도 실패를 기록한 것은 북한 기술의 원천적 결함을 보여주는 것이다.
3. 이 미사일은 운반물체가 1t이면 약6000km, 500kg이면 약9000km를 날아갈 수 있도록 설계되었는데, 이번엔 약3000km만 비행한 것이다. 전문가들은 북한의 실력으로는 재발하는 문제점을 해결하기 어려울 것이라고 본다.
4. 미국 전문가들은, 2006년 10월의 核실험도 未熟폭발에 의한 실패라고 본다. 제대로 터지지 않았다는 것이다. 따라서 북한이 핵폭탄을 미사일에 실을 정도로, 즉 1t~500kg 정도로 소형화하는 데는 긴 시간이 걸릴 것이라고 한다.
5. 요컨대 이번 미사일 발사는 북한의 약점을 노출시켰다. 핵폭탄 설계기술의 낙후성과 미사일의 문제점을 종합할 때 북한이 미국의 안보에 위협이 될려면 아직 멀었다는 것이다.
북한의 군수공업 부문에 오래 근무하였던 한 탈북 과학자는 어제 '내가 만난 북한의 핵, 미사일 기술자들은 매우 비관적이었다. 實戰배치가 가능한 핵탄두 운반 미사일은 상당기간 만들지 못할 것이라고 생각한다. 핵폭탄을 소형화하려면 여러 차례의 핵실험을 거쳐야 하는데 시원치 않은 실험을 딱 한번 했을 뿐이다'라고 말하였다.
North Korea failed in its highly vaunted effort to fire a satellite into orbit, military and private experts said Sunday after reviewing detailed tracking data that showed the missile and payload fell into the sea. Some said the failure undercut the North Korean campaign to come across as a fearsome adversary able to hurl deadly warheads halfway around the globe.
Defying world opinion, North Korea in recent weeks had moved steadily and fairly openly toward launching a long-range rocket that Western experts saw as a major step toward a military weapon. The launching itself of the three-stage rocket on Sunday, which the North Korean government portrayed as a success — even bragging that the supposed satellite payload was now broadcasting patriotic tunes from space — outraged Japan and South Korea, led to widespread rebuke by President Obama and other leaders, and prompted the United Nations Security Council to go into an emergency session.
But looking at the launching from a purely technical vantage point, space experts said the failure represented a blow that in all likelihood would seriously delay the missile’s debut.
“It’s got to be embarrassing,” said Geoffrey E. Forden, a missile expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I can imagine heads flying if the ‘Dear Leader’ finds out the satellite didn’t fly into orbit,” he said, referring to the name North Koreans are obliged to use when speaking of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s reclusive leader.
North Korea’s official news agency said Mr. Kim attended the launching.
Analysts dismissed the idea that the rocket firing could represent a furtive success, calling the failure consistent with past North Korean fumbles and suggesting it might reveal a significant quality control problem in one of the world’s most isolated nations.
“It’s a setback,” Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks satellites and rocket launchings, said of the North Korean launching. He added that the North Koreans must now find and fix the problem. “The missile doesn’t represent any kind of near-term threat.”
Others said North Korea’s client states, like Iran, seemed to be having more success at rocketry than North Korea. In February, Iran managed to launch a small satellite into orbit.
The United States Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs, issued a statement on Sunday that portrayed the launching as a major failure. It based its information on a maze of federal radars, spy ships and satellites that monitor global missile firings.
The command said that North Korea launched a Taepodong-2 missile at 11:30 a.m. Sunday local time, or 10:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, and that its first stage fell into the Sea of Japan, which analysts had expected as the point of splashdown in a successful launching.
However, “the remaining stages, along with the payload itself, landed in the Pacific Ocean,” the statement said. Analysts had expected the rocket’s second stage to land in the Pacific but its third stage and its ostensible satellite payload to fly into space.
The command emphasized that “no object entered orbit,” apparently a reference to both the rocket’s third stage as well as the supposed satellite.
North Korea’s public portrayal of the event as a complete success was similar in its celebratory tone to the happy note it struck in 1998 after having failed to loft a satellite into orbit.
News reports out of Japan also said the rocket’s second stage splashed down in the Pacific, hundreds of miles short of the danger zone that North Korea announced last month. Western analysts said that shortfall, if correct, probably indicated a failure of the missile’s second stage.
A general rule of engineering is that failures reveal more than successes. If so, North Korea — which has now test-fired three long-range rockets, each time unsuccessfully — is learning a lot about limitations.
“It’s not unusual to have a series of failures at the beginning of a missile program,” Jeffrey G. Lewis, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation, a research group in Washington, said in an interview. “But they don’t test enough to develop confidence that they’re getting over the problems.”
Dr. Lewis added that an influential 1998 report by Donald H. Rumsfeld, before he became secretary of defense in the Bush administration, argued that the North Korean rockets might be good enough to pose a threat to the United States, even without flight testing.
“But given that both versions of the Taepodong-2 have failed now,” he said, “we have very little confidence in the reliability of the system.”
North Korea is often portrayed as technically adept when it comes to bombs and rockets. But Western analysts say that image is now in doubt amid rising questions of basic competence.
In August 1998, North Korea’s first attempt at launching a long-range rocket, the Taepodong-1, managed to scare Japan but failed to deliver a satellite to orbit. The troubles continued in July 2006 when its second test of a long-range missile, the Taepodong-2, ended in an explosion just seconds after liftoff.
And in October 2006, North Korea conducted an explosive test of a nuclear device inside a remote mountain tunnel. Many intelligence analysts judged it to be a fizzle that barely shook the ground. The test nonetheless raised fears that North Korea would seek to develop a nuclear warhead compact enough to fit atop a missile.
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Digitalglobe, via Associated Press
The satellite image above shows what Washington believed was a Taepodong-2 missile at a launching pad on North Korea’s northeastern coast. More Photos >
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Read All Comments (296) »The current situation was different from past ones in that North Korea announced its rocket intentions weeks before the test firing, giving the International Maritime Organization coordinates at sea where it expected the first and second stages to splash down.
Western analysts called the missile launching a military endeavor, despite North Korea’s contention that its payload was for purely civilian purposes.
Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, told reporters last month, “North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM capability through a space launch.” He added, “Most of the world understands the game they are playing.”
David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group in Cambridge, Mass., estimated that the rocket, if eventually successful, might lead to a ballistic missile that could throw a warhead of 2,200 pounds a distance of some 3,700 miles, far enough to hit parts of Alaska.
He added that if the warhead’s weight could be cut in half, down to 1,100 pounds, the rocket would be able to hurl the weapon much farther, about 5,600 miles. That, in theory, would bring the West Coast of the continental United States within its range.
But Dr. Wright noted that developing a miniaturized warhead “is likely to be a significant challenge for North Korea,” so that the rocket, even if successful, would “not represent a true intercontinental nuclear delivery capability.”
In an interview, he said the weekend test appeared to be less of a failure than the 2006 rocket attempt, and that it might provide useful information about how to make improvements.
But Dr. Wright said the string of rocket failures over the past decade might indicate serious quality control problems. If so, North Korea may simply have “recurring problems in how they manufacture things,” which may prove hard to fix.
He added that the rocket’s failure might “open a window of opportunity” for the Obama administration to engage the North Koreans in disarmament talks.