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The Military Hardware Science

What Debris From North Korea's Rocket Launch Shows 223

Lasrick writes "David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists analyzes the debris from North Korea's December 11th Unha-3 launch. From the article: 'According to press reports, traces on the inner walls of the tank show that the first-stage oxidizer is a form of nitric acid called "red-fuming nitric acid," which is the standard oxidizer used in Scud-type missiles. There had been some speculation that this stage might instead use a more advanced fuel with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as the oxidizer. Since the Nodong engines believed to power the first stage are scaled-up Scud engines, the use of RNFA is not a surprise. There have also been claims that the stage uses a more advanced fuel called UDMH, but it appears instead to be the kerosene-based fuel used in Scuds. In his recent RAND study, Markus Schiller noted that a test Iraq performed using UDMH in a Scud engine gave poor performance, and that burning UDMH gives a transparent flame. The North Korean video of the launch instead shows an orange flame characteristic of Scud fuels (Figure 3 is an image from 12:44 into the video). These findings confirm that the stage is still Scud-level technology.'"
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What Debris From North Korea's Rocket Launch Shows

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  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @09:24AM (#42403107) Homepage

    It got us to the moon several times. Dont discount the "primitive" kerosene as a rocket fuel.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday December 27, 2012 @09:27AM (#42403115)
    But does it really matter what "technology" it uses if it can launch a bomb across an ocean? I don't think the parameters for success include "spend X billion inventing a new technology". Just the fact that they have managed to scale it up where other countries decided not to implies some sort of innovation. It's either cheaper, or they figured out a way to do it cheaper.
  • Re:North Korea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @09:30AM (#42403135)

    They now have an ICBM. Now they just need to miniaturize their nukes to fit on it. Next they will need submarines with nuclear missiles to protect them against a first strike. Then the only thing that will take them down will be internal strife. Considering that they are a batshit crazy country, China will prop them up as long as possible. So actually this hellhole might last pretty far into the future.

    The secret to North Korea's longevity is that nobody wants to go in an clean up their mess. This is ten times more important when they have a reasonable delivery system for their nuclear weapons.

  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday December 27, 2012 @09:54AM (#42403233)

    First of all, you can tell a LOT from this particular data point.

    That aside, what are you insinuating? That a group widely and routinely chastised as espousing a "liberal" and/or "leftist" agenda by conservatives, opposed the now-cancelled US Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, and is opposed to nuclear weapons in general, is executing a propaganda campaign to make North Korea look more primitive than it really is when it comes to its rocket programs?

    Are you serious?

    After a veritable comedy of errors, North Korea finally has a successful launch, can't even get or keep the satellite launched from it into a stable orbit, and now an anti-nuclear advocacy group is really a secret US propaganda campaign to inappropriately embarrass the North Koreans, who are really more advanced in rocketry than all of their misadventures would indicate? The same North Koreans who just announced they have uncovered a unicorn lair []?

    Really? I mean...really?

    Please â" I would love to hear how this is "propaganda", and how the DPRK is really a capable member of the space and nuclear clubs. To what possible end? Even IF it were true, why/how would that be a good thing?

    Or is this one of those topsy-turvy bizarro-world lines of reasoning where anything and everything that is in ANY way opposed to anything related to any US or Western interest is automatically true and pure, but anything that originates from the US or West, in any way, shape, or form is always "propaganda"?

  • by sribe ( 304414 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:46AM (#42403603)

    Everyone knew these were nothing more than scaled up Scuds, it's been reported on for months.

    The big deal is that what everyone suspected (not knew) has now been confirmed by physical evidence.

  • by TC Wilcox ( 954812 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:09AM (#42403741)

    But I'm debating whether we want to let them develop first strike capability.

    Yeah, I was just thinking, "Wouldn't another war be nice?" And this whole pre-emptive strike thing has been working out so well!

    You are afraid that letting them develop longer will lead to them being more dangerous. Isn't it possible that letting them develop might lead to them being less dangerous? Maybe there will be a popular uprising? Maybe with increased wealth and education will come preasure from the populace to increase freedoms? Why should popular opinion in the US be the decider and enforcer of what North Korea does? Why not let North Korea's neighbors (South Korea, China, Japan, Russia along with many, many others that are much closer) take the lead? Have we learned nothing from the mistakes in Iraq? Why are you so eager for our country to squander what wealth we have by blowing up people half a world away?

    As a programmer just the inefficiencies of war (spending billions of dollars buildings things to blow up people and infrastructure) makes me weap let alone the cost in human life. I also strong suspect that all of these wars are going to make things much more dangerous for America down the road.

  • Idiocy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mha ( 1305 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:22AM (#42403819) Homepage

    "These findings confirm that the stage is still Scud-level technology."

    Says who, a so-called "scientist" from the nation that just put the space shuttle into the scrapyard (where it belongs) - and has NOTHING to even do the same job as that old piece of junk?

    As compared to what, the anti-gravity drive used by the latest US spaceships? Last time I checked EVERYONE still uses good old rockets. Oh sure - they now (occasionally) have a camera looking backwards for nice launch videos. And possibly they use fuel Y instead of fuel X - excuse me guys, you celebrate marginal, tiny advances as being far ahead of the stone-age North Koreans?

    As far as getting into space, we ALL are at "stone-age" (1960s) level (i.e. rockets, huge flames, HUGE noise, lots of explosives). But today, progress is measured in micrometers, not in miles, so sure, let's celebrate how much more advanced we (the West) is compared to the most backward nation on earth.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:23AM (#42403825) Homepage Journal
    They "deserve the credit"? they've got half their country starving to death behind barbed wire, the other half starving in their crumbling capitol, they're spending all their money on BALLISTIC missle technology, and they... "deserve the credit". Well step forward and claim that prize, Best Korea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:44AM (#42404011)

    well yea, launching a nuke at you from a trebuchet is much more dangerous (to me) then launching one at you from an ICBM.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:01PM (#42404543) Homepage

    The Iranian and North Korean governments are a bunch of nutbags with or without the ability to rain down destruction on the rest of the planet. Not every space shot induces panic. Not every country is as stupid or as evil as the worst example you can find.

    It's also important to note that the original space race was far from benign. Sputnik was a side venture of the Soviet ICBM program and the main American efforts were also military in nature.

    The people that are the most hysterical probably have a properly grounded historical perspective.

  • Re:ROFLMAO! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @03:16PM (#42405585)

    No, there's a huge difference in quality between NK and US which makes any such comparison ludicrous and false. NK is an absolute totalitarian state in which the very CONCEPTS of individual dignity, human rights, and personal autonomy are not acknowledged at all and are never exercised by individuals. Even the most trivial deviations from rigidly defined acceptable behavior is met with arbitrary and disproportionate force from an elite class of people who answer to no-one and have absolute power. Millions starve to death routinely, there is no economic progress of any kind, and whatever wealth exists is completely controlled by a tiny elite.

    Now, we can complain about inequality, hunger, a political system which favors an elite, etc. However you are not subjected to anything like the sort of state power and restrictions on your freedom that you would be in NK. Nor are people routinely punished or killed in horrible ways without any recourse, etc. Is half the population of the US grossly malnurished? No. Is there no right at all to private property or even basic privacy? No. You cannot say there is any meaningful equivalence between NK and the US, thus my original comment stands.

  • Re:North Korea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:53PM (#42406283)

    North Korea is known to have built up a significant level of hardened and hidden shelters for their equipment. I assure you, their equipment is obsolete and would not stand up to any sort of real slugging match with the South, let alone the US, but they do have the capability to seriously damage Seoul with conventional artillery.

    Don't think for a second that just because you don't see deployed artillery batteries on hill tops it means they aren't there. It doesn't take long for even towed artillery to move into preplanned firing positions from their shelters. NK has a significant number of tube artillery in place that is low tech, but easy to maintain and very cheap to operate and store. Short of finishing their ICBM dreams, they don't have a prayer of touching the US, but SK is definitely a different matter.

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