Infobox Korean name

caption=An image released on North Korean television of what was purported to be Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1.
hangul=광명성 1호

Kwangmyŏngsŏng meaning ("Bright Star") in Korean is a class of experimental satellite developed by North Korea and named after a Chinese poetry by Kim Il Sung. It is the first class of satellite built by this country and the program started in the 1980s.

First orbital launch

On occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, the official Korean Central News Agency announced on September 1st, 1998 Juche 87, that a satellite called "Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1" had been launched at 3:07 UTC on August 31 from a launch site in Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun, North Hamgyong Province by a
Baekdusan-1 SLV. This launch made the DPRK the ninth spacefaring nation, after the USSR, USA, France, Japan, China, UK, India and Israel. [cite web|url=|title =世界各国发射的航天器比较 |publisher= 中国国家地理|date=2007-05-16|accessmonthday=September 13|accessyear=2008]


According to North Korea Academy of Science's Academician Kwon Tong Hwa, the SLV was developed in the 1980s when the late leader Kim Il Sung decided to launch a Korean satellite. At the beginning of the 1990s, the capacity to achieve this goal was already reached.

On occasion of Kim Jong Il's 50th anniversary, on February 16th, 1992, his father Kim Il Sung presented him one of his Chinese calligraphed poetry. Referring to his son's birth, an event that was reportedly marked by a double rainbow, and a bright star in the sky, the future Korean SLV and satellite would be named after it:

cquote|一顆誕生於聖山白頭山正日頂峰的“光明星”, 將成為文武雙全、忠國孝親, 受萬民稱頌擁戴的傑出領袖。

From the eternal snowy summit of our sacred Baekdusan Mountain, A Bright Star shall rise.
200|100|"DPRK President Kim Il Sung" [cite web|url=|title =金日成主席永生 |publisher= 孔夫子旧书网|date=2007-03-19|accessmonthday=September 23|accessyear=2008]

The decision to send a North Korean satellite was precipitated by the successful launch of South Korea's first satellite Uribyol 1 aka Kitsat 1 on August 10th, 1992 and its second satellite, Uribyol 2 aka Kitsat 2, on September 26th, 1993, both by an European Ariane 4 SLV. In a late-1993 meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, Kim Il Sung expressed his desire to place quickly a satellite into orbit, leading to the expansion of the DPRK’s nascent space program and the requirement for a space launch vehicle.

The Baekdusan-1 SLV (「運輸火箭白頭山一號」)is the civilian version of the Taepodong 1 IRBM (「大浦洞一號」), with an additional spin up solid motor orbital insertion third stage. The first and second stages of the SLV are made up of Nitric acid/UDMH liquid propellant rocket engines and the third spin-up orbital insertion stage of a solid propellant engine. The first stage consisted of a No-Dong 1 MRBM and the second stage of a Hwasong-6 SRBM, a derivative of the Scud-C. The third stage is derived from the Chinese HQ-2 booster.

In designing the "Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1", the DPRK received considerable assistance from the PRC’s Academy of Launch Technology. This assistance has continued with development of the "Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2" satellite project. It may also extend to additional satellites, including a crude reconnaissance satellite.

Launch campaign

Thus, only five years later, preparations for the first satellite launch began at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility on August 7th, 1998. Two weeks later, KPN vessels proceeded to their mission area into the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea). By that time, South Korea had already placed two other satellites into space with Delta-7925 SLVs, Koreasat 1 aka Mugunghwa 1 aka Europe Star B on August 5th, 2005 and Koreasat 2 aka Mugunghwa 2 on January 14th, 2006.

Liftoff occurred at 12:07 hours local time on August 31st. The first stage was separated from the rocket 95 seconds after the launch. The fairing shroud separated at the 144th second, then the second stage separated itself from the rocket at the 266th second. The third stage put the satellite into orbit 27 seconds after the separation of the second stage.


Confirmation of the launch and detection of the satellite by the Space Tracking Center in Moscow has quickly been reported by the Russian Space Agency. [cite web|url=|title =朝鲜导弹和卫星的发展概况|publisher= 铁血社区|date=2006-07-07|accessmonthday=September 25|accessyear=2008]

This was followed on September 14th by a video of the launch, images of the satellite, and an animation of the satellite in orbit. The photographs showed a satellite similar in shape with a 72 faced tetrahedron, to the first Chinese satellite, Dong Fang Hong I, itself very similar to Telstar 1, though the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 was largely outclassed in mass (42㎏ vs 173㎏ for the DFH-1) and size (35㎝×35㎝×35㎝ vs 100㎝ ×100㎝ ×100㎝ for the DFH-1).

According to the North Korean media it completed its hundredth orbit on September 13, 1998, and was in an elliptical orbit with a perigee of 218.82 km and apogee of 6,978.2 km with a period of 165 minutes and 6 seconds. It was also reported to be transmitting the melody of "Song of General Kim Il-sung" and "Song of General Kim Jong-il" and the Morse signals "Juche Korea" at 27 MHz, as well as orbital data including temperature, pressure and conditions of power source.

Thus, scientific foundations were laid for the development of future telecommunications satellites.


NORAD were unable to detect the satellite visually, by radar, or pick up its radio signals, reporting instead that it continued east, burning up, with a debris trail that apparently extended to approximately 4,000 ㎞. It is thought that the satellite launch appeared to have failed due to underperformance of the solid fueled third stage, placing the satellite into an orbit from which it decayed very quickly. But there is some doubt in adversary nations as to whether the satellite existed at all. Many of their observers arguing the story of a satellite launch was invented to allay the western outrage that followed North Korea's test-firing of a “Taepodong-1 ballistic missile”, which crossed over Japan before crashing into the Pacific Ocean. Following the test, Japan’s Self Defense Forces even went to sent three destroyers and patrol aircraft to extensively search the impact areas in the Pacific for wreckage of the alleged “missile and its warhead”. Expectingly, all these efforts have been in vain.

econd orbital launch

On its December 26th, 1998 edition, the Rodong Sinmun already announced that North Korea would launch another satellite in the future.

In a very controversial series of missile test conducted on the occasion of the American National Day on July 4th, 2006, according to the internet edition of the Choson Sinbo (「朝鮮新報」) published on June 21st, 2006, the payload of the Baekdusan-2 SLV (「運輸火箭白頭山二號」) civilian version of the Taepodong 2C/3 ICBM (「大浦洞二號」) could have been made of the "Gwangmyeongseong-2" (「光明星二號」) weather satellite, with a mass ranging from 170 ㎏ to 550 ㎏. Launched from the Musudan-ri launch center, the rocket failed after only 42 seconds.

Tenth anniversary

On occasion of the 10th anniversary of the 1998 Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 satellite launch attempt, program conducted by North Korea in close cooperation with Iran and Pakistan, the Iranian Space Agency has proceeded with its own test. According to practice also observed by North Korea, Iranian authorities announced to their Chinese allies on August 16th, 2008 the incoming imminent launch of a satellite. [cite web|url=|title =伊朗将于下周发射自主生产的卫星 |publisher= 伊通社|date=2008-08-16|accessmonthday=August 18|accessyear=2008] On August 17th, 2008 on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Shiites' 12th Imam Hazrat Mahdi, Iran proceeded as preannounced with the second test launch of a three stages Safir SLV. Reza Taghizadeh, head of the Iranian Aerospace Organization, told state television "The Safir (Ambassador) satellite carrier was launched today and for the first time we successfully launched a dummy satellite into orbit". [citeweb|title=Iran says it has put first dummy satellite in orbit |url=|publisher="Reuters"|accessdate=2008-08-18]

On occasion of the 10th anniversary official celebrations, Radio Pyongyang broadcasted on August 31st, 2008 and received in China, pledged not only for further satellite launches of the Kwangmyongsong series but also for the resumption of its nuclear program starting with the reactivation of the plutonium-producing Yongbyon nuclear plant shut down only a year early. [cite web|url=|title =光明星1号”发射10周年 朝鲜称随时可以发射卫星|publisher= 华约军事论坛|date=2008-09-05|accessmonthday=September 25|accessyear=2008]

Furthermore, on September 11th, 2008, supporting previous claims to launch more satellites into space, the existence of a totally new launch facility exceeding both in size and sophistication the Musudan-ri test base on North Korea's east coast has been revealed. Known as Tongch'ang-dong Space Launch Center (平安北道鐵山郡同昌里同昌洞發射基地)and located in the North Pyongan province at coord |39.660|N|124.706 |E|, it is built on the former site of a small village called Pongdong-ri. Thus, the first stage of a Baekdusan-1 SLV would land in the Sea of Japan at about coord |39.433290|N|129.472213|E|. Indeed, the old Musudan-ri test center was not designed for winter time operations but only for the occasional space satellite launch campaign in the spring, summer or fall seasons, the SLVs being not easily prepared for launch.The new space center includes a movable launch pad and a ten storeys tall tower capable of supporting the DPRK's largest SLVs, including a rocket motor test pad similar in size and design to the Iranian Shahid Hemmat rocket test facility built east of Tehran. There are also support buildings, a vertical assembly building and an engine test stand among other structures. Following the relocation of scores of new aerospace factories far away from the Demilitarized Zone, it is specially built in the mountainous North West part of the country, closer to the Chinese allied border, at only 50 km of it and therefore benefiting from the Chinese airspace protection, the site is consequently meant to be safer. [cite web|url=|title =朝鲜在中朝边境建第二导弹基地曝光 |publisher= 人民网|date=2008-09-11|accessmonthday=September 11|accessyear=2008] The site is said to be completed at 80 percent, and will be fully operational within a year or two. Baekdusan-2 SLV engine ignition test have already started. [cite web|url=|title =消息人士:朝鲜试验远程导弹发动机|publisher= 俄罗斯新闻网|date=2008-09-16|accessmonthday=September 16|accessyear=2008]

In popular culture

The satellite has since featured prominently in North Korean festivities and celebrations such as the mass gymnastics. Commemorative stamps showing the real shape of the satellite still attached to the spin up solid motor orbital insertion third stage and more than two orbits have also been printed on several occasions. [cite web|url=|title =朝鲜6月18日发行胡锦涛、温家宝等中国领导人的邮票|publisher= 其乐邮币卡网|date=2004-06-16|accessmonthday=September 19|accessyear=2008] [cite web|url=|title =北朝鮮のミサイル、テポドン発射記念切手|publisher= 三○七商店会|date=2004-06-16|accessmonthday=September 19|accessyear=2008]

ee also

*Tongch'ang-dong Space Launch Center
*Dong Fang Hong I
*Iranian Space Agency
*Pakistan Space Agency


* [ Encyclopedia Astronautica]
*cite news|url=|publisher=Korean Central News Agency|date=1998-12-09|title="Kwangmyongsong No. 1" demonstrates might of Korea|accessdate=2006-07-07
* [ Federation of American Scientists]

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