North Korea claims that on October 2015 is planned launch of Unha-3 rocket with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite atop.
World is looking at Korean Peninsula with curiosity and every couple years with increasing fear. North Korea remains one of most unstable and unpredictable state on Earth with impressive military power (in terms of number of soldiers not necessary their weapon) and ambition to keep West in nuclear check. Even during the Cold War there was no such military subordinated and politically infiltrated society. Probably there is no other country which is as clearly evaluated as threat for peace. It is one of most closed and impenetrable states in history. So it should not be surprising that every announcement and statement from North Korea should not be considered as objective information. It should be considered as mean of regime propaganda. Mean in silent war, which was not officially ended since 27th July 1953.
North Korean space program has it’s origins probably in early eighties. It begun probably when North Korea had acquired plans and technology of manufacturing Soviet SCUD short range ballistic missiles from Egypt. First rocket ballistic missile manufactured and designed in North Korea was Hwasong-5 (SRBM-short range ballistic missile) which started service in 1985. In short time after Hwasong, Rodong medium range ballistic missile was designed and manufactured (it was spotted by U.S. reconnaissance satellite in 1990). Milestone for satellite program came when Kim Ir Sen set the objective to create first North Korean satellite. It was after South Korea launched their first satellite utilizing Ariane rocket in 1992. It was both propaganda and military program from the very beginning. First of all there was no need to develop broadcasting satellite simply due the fact that no one except Koreans from the north does not want to watch North Korean TV. As far as food became luxurious for Korean citizens in half on nineties, it was doubtful that anyone could afford to buy receiver to enjoy satellite TV. Observation satellite for exploration of natural resources would be useful, but without appropriate technology North Korea would not be able to design and manufacture such satellite. Military reconnaissance satellite is not necessary due the simple fact that only real enemy is just behind the boarder and is quite ease to infiltrate using conventional methods. Probably government decided that best way to hide true intentions of developing space program would be quite innocent intention of developing observation or broadcasting satellite with appropriate rocket. Rocket which could be as good as a launch vehicle as ICBM. And this was objective which was possible to reach. First signs of progress in Korean program were noticeable in 1998. In Musudan-ri Launch Facility on 7th August 1998 started preparations for first launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1. On 31st August at 12:07 local time rocket successfully launched, but satellite failed to reach the orbit and burn in atmosphere. Rocket utilized for this mission was generally adopted military rocket Taepodong-1. It was generally technology demonstrator and way of showing capability of North Korea to develop means for transferring nuclear weapon. Designed with reverse engineering of SCUD missiles was generally combination of Rodong and Hwasong missiles. Rodong was adopted as a first stage, Hwasong-6 (modernized Hwasong-5) was designed as second stage. Engines were providing 525.25 kN of start thrust, weight of the rocket was around 33 406 kg and length at 25.80 m. Next attempts of lifting satellite into orbit are connected with Taepodong-2 rocket and Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite in 2006. According some sources Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 was communication satellite and after starting from Musudan-ri Launch Facility and only 42 seconds of flight rocket failed. It was quite surprising that Country separated from any space technology was able in such short time pass the way from missiles designed as artillery support to primitive space rockets. Taepodong-2 rocket was improved and bigger Taepodong -1 rocket. There are no known details about construction of Taepodong-2. First stage is probably powered by up to four liquid fueled engines. Second and third stage is probably adopted from Taepodong-1: Rodong as second and Hwasong as third stage. There is a possibility that for the third stage Chinese engines were installed. Another test launch begun on 5th April 2009 and launch vehicle failed after flying 3200 km. This time lifting rocket was called Unha-2 (changing names of military equipment without important reason is old Soviet practice to mislead enemy and create an impression of multiplicity possessed types of weapon) and was slightly modified Taepodong-2 (launch site was Musudan-ri Launch Facility). Another attempt has taken place in 2012. This launch was significant not due the success, but due the fact that launch site was not Musudan-ri, but new Cosmodrome (built since early nineties and finished in 2011) in Sohae. Lifting rocket was Unha-3. It is still three stage rocket, with length at 30 m and mass around 90000 kg. First stage is powered by four 4 Nodong 2-1 with thrust at 1100 kN. Second stage is equipped with unknown engine with thrust at around 250 kN and third stage has engine with thrust at 54 kN. According some sources it is able to reach west coast of the United States of America. Still there is very little information about Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4. Probably it is nothing more than piece of metal pretending real satellite. But this fact probably will never be denied or confirmed.
There is strange fact with Korean space program – even due the famine plague and UN sanctions North Korea was able to finish new launch site. It should not be surprising for West that Korea is in possession ICBM – concealing this long, expensive and difficult to hide program required not money, camouflage and disinformation. Most helpful remained ignorance.