back to article North Korea's satellite a dud, say US astroboffins

North Korea may have successfully launched a satellite into orbit, as reported last week, but it might as well have deployed a pile of scrap metal, US-based astroboffins say. "It's clear that the rocket part of this mission worked very well for the North Koreans," Harvard astronomer John McDowell told The New York Times. "They …

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  1. N2 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Good

    But what next?

    Does the X-37b have an offensive ability?

    1. Annihilator
      Coat

      Re: Good

      Does the X-37b have an offensive ability?

      Yeah, it's got a picture of a guy giving the bird as it flies past.

    2. Rob

      Re: Good

      This would definitely make a good training exercise for it, test out it's satellite killing/stealing abilities. N.Korea won't know as they have lost contact with it, plus they would be doing the busy routes up in orbit a favour.

  2. pewpie
    FAIL

    Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

    I'm so glad we don't have to worry about tyrants trying to rob the common folk of everything.. and the US/EU/Nippon space program never ever deals in warfare.. never ever ever..

    Anyway - I'm gonna go eat some more grass now.. Baaabye.

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

      Its all relative. When its worth it to risk life and limb to go as an economic refugee to China they are in their own league of misery. Having all the bark stripped off trees in public parks due starving people looking for any sustenance is something we in the West have no idea about. In the US we probably throw away more food each day than North Korea consumes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

        Last stat I saw had the US throwing away more food each day than the US consumes (if consumes = actually eats).

        (The rest of the West, including my home country, can't brag on that count either).

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

        Well we should teach those nasty North Koreans a lesson by imposing sanctions on them.

        No being able to buy iPads will really teach then how silly they are not to overthrow their tyrant leaders.

        If that doesn’t work we should threaten them some more.

        1. JohnG Silver badge

          Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

          "...we should teach those nasty North Koreans a lesson by imposing sanctions on them."

          The sanctions relate to North Korea signing the NNPT (to gain access to nuclear technology from other signatories) and then developing nuclear weapons in breach of the the same treaty. If their Chinese and Russian friends felt that the sanctions were wrong then they could have vetoed them - but they have not.

          "If that doesn’t work we should threaten them some more."

          It is North Korea that does all the threatening - and they increase the threats every time they want to extort more food aid from the countries with whom they are still at war. Whether they are shooting American tourists visiting the DMZ, shelling civilians on South Korean islands or aborting the babies of North Korean women returning from China, it is the NK regime that is dishing out all the violence.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

          The North Koreans have been under US sanction, more or less, since 1950-53. That might have something to do with their current state. Still it serves 'em right for not bowing down to the Rightful Master, huh?

          1. Nigel 11
            Flame

            Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

            I think some people here don't know just HOW bad a place NK is.

            It's not just a country that has adopted the hereditary principle for absolute dictator. It's also one that has adopted the same for "enemy of the state". When someone gets sent to an extermination camp ("re-education" camp), his family goes with him, kids and all. Once there, if they are lucky they are just worked to death. If they are unlucky, they are used for germ warfare research.

          2. asdf Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

            Kim is that you? Keep thinking its the US sanctions and not the Stalinist/Mao central economic planning and corruption that is causing their poverty. Google the Great Leap Forward to see what ideological economic planning can do to a nation. That had nothing to do with US sanctions either.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Failure?

    Is it known for sure that the satellite had any significant technical purpose? They have shown to themselves and the world that they are capable of launching a satellite into orbit - and that's a pretty big deal in itself. Maybe that's all this mission was designed to achieve. Now that they know they can do it successfully, perhaps the next one will have a proper function.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: Failure?

      Is it known for sure that the satellite had any significant technical purpose?

      The satellite? No, that was just a pretext to launch a rocket AKA an ICBM - just swap satellite for weapon.

      The silly thing with all this is that it has to be easier to just grow enough food than it is to go through the elaborate process of building some rockets and staging a nuclear weapons test, just to extort more aid from their enemies. It isn't about protection: China is NK's protection. The nuclear weapons testing and rocket launches only serve to annoy their protector and provide ammunition for their enemies in UN Security Council meetings.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Is it known for sure that the satellite had any significant technical purpose?

        It gets whites clean in just 55 minutes?

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Failure?

        Growing food does not contribute anything to controlling your own population. The rocket launch sole purpose was to ensure that the outer world gets pissed off and demonstrates its dislike. NK TV gets some authentic material to show its viewers how the world "hates" the "supreme technological achievement" of the "freedom loving people".

        In order to understand NK you have to study Stalin who invented this ruling style. It is a form of perverse theocracy pretending to be communism which can exist only while the country is "on a state of a alert". So if you do not have a natural "state of alert" you end up having to create one and maintain it. Stalin invented enemies outside and enemies within by the dosen on a daily basis. This gave him the pretext to gain and maintain control over everything and everyone. All of this was combined with a cult towards his own personality.

        In his case the driving force was rabid paranoia. I hope that in the NK case it is carefully calculated strategy. When Stalin's "stroke" was organized by Beria, Malenkow and Molotov we were 6 months away from WW3 - he ran out of pretexts and invented enemies.

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: Failure?

          Enemies within? You mean like all these homegrown terrorists we're supposed to keep an eye open for?

          1. fandom Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Failure?

            No, he probably meant the public servants whose houses had a special door with no locks so that the kgb didn't have to break the door to go and get them.

            No matter how much you despise them, trying to compare Stalin, or Hitler, to Western leaders is moronic

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          if you do not have a natural "state of alert"

          they could try a war on terror.

      3. Alfred

        "easier to just grow enough food "

        Whilst I'm not denying that their time and expertise might be better spent farming, I've been there and driven around the country and everywhere - and I mean everywhere - I looked, every scrap of land that could be put to farming use appeared to have been. I saw people ploughing right (and I mean RIGHT) up against the edges of cliffs, someone was working tiny little scraps of land that you'd have to climb rocks just to get to with the earth turned (even inside the cities on rocky outcrops), the courtyard of a collapsed building with someone digging it, on and on and on, people walking serious distances each day to reach fields (I would hazard often simply living out in them for a few days at a time) to work them, just everywhere someone was trying to grow something. It's not for lack of effort.

        Also, the trees; row after row after row of little sapling, marked with white stones to stop people accidentally stepping on them; thousands and thousands and thousands of them, lining road and rail everywhere I went. At some point in the last decade they have deforested on a serious scale (I'd hazard in a desperate attempt to keep warm) and now they're trying to grow more as quickly as they can.

        I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't think it's that simple, based on my experiences there.

        1. Mako
          Thumb Up

          Re: "easier to just grow enough food "

          Good to hear from someone who has been there and experienced it themselves.

        2. Rampant Spaniel

          @alfred

          You are right, it certainly isn't that simple. However, if they did devote a little less time to rather bonkers hotels and icbm's \ nukes and a little more energy to developing their economy as a whole their people would probably be better off. Exporting some items to pay for imported food and fertiliser etc. I remember NK being given significant amounts of fertiliser previously to 'behave'. What was your impression of the level of technology involved in their farming? I don't know enough of their geography to say if they could be self sufficent, but improving their soils and techniques should reduce the food shortages.

      4. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Failure?

        It was a satellite launch and always planned as such. The trajectory for a satellite to enter orbit is completely different from that for a ballistic missile (it's generally with a lower apogee) and the North Korean rocket performed a dog-leg manoeuvre to avoid overflying populated areas. We have to accept that NK has a satellite programme.

        Where their ballistic missile programme might have benefitted is that the country now has much better experience of building large, powerful motors and flying rockets in hypersonic regimes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Failure?

      Maybe it *was* just a washing machine?

      1. Richard Altmann
        FAIL

        Re: Failure?

        NK is producing washing machines?

        1. Kharkov
          Trollface

          Re: Failure?

          @Richard Altmann - NK is producing washing machines?

          Yes, and they'll deliver them to your... roof... from half a world away...

          Although to be fair, its a bit rough on the poor guy who has to go along and get a signature...

    3. Ole Juul Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Failure?

      Maybe that's all this mission was designed to achieve. Now that they know they can do it successfully, perhaps the next one will have a proper function.

      You mean maybe it actually was a washing machine?

      1. lawndart

        Re: Failure?

        By its actions it is almost certainly a tumble dryer.

      2. Paul Webb
        Mushroom

        Re: Failure?

        White Goods Annoy Red Army.

    4. Fatman Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Failure? Now for the manned launch.

      IF that launch was a failure, I am sure that it did not go over well with the fill in the blank[1] leader of NK. And I suspect just who may just be announced as the first human launched into orbit by NK - the head of their rocket program.

      <sarcasm>

      It will be so unfortunate should that mission also end in failure.

      After all, how do you expect to correct mistakes, if you can not directly observe them.

      </sarcasm>

      [1] Choose your desired synonym for 'nut', 'deluded ruler', etc as appropriate.

    5. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Failure?

      Had they been intent on simply putting something in orbit, then a simple sphere would have been best as it would be almost impossible to detect if such a shape was stable or tumbling. For added giggles, putting a simple battery-powered transmitter into this sphere to transmit back some heavily edited downloaded satellite images would have heightened the sham, by giving the impression that the thing was actually functional.

      As it is, they tried to put a strongly asymetrical device into orbit, which suggests that they were trying to go the whole hog all at once and put a functional system in place first time out. This would have greatly boosted the saleability of the whole rocket system (selling the tech to other undeveloped nations is the whole point here), as it is they merely have a working ICBM.

      1. Nigel 11

        Working ICBM?

        Or maybe not. Tumbling uncontrollably presents considerabe difficulties to re-entry without burning up. (I really hope so).

  4. jacobbe
    FAIL

    After reading this, I doubt that their nuclear bombs work correctly either.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      funny that

      They don't need nukes to screw over SK and the world economy as well. With Seoul being so close to the DMZ from what I understand with conventional weapons they could pretty much suicide and cause 10x more havoc than 9/11. The nuclear is a phallic thing and a bargaining chip.

      1. Red Bren
        Mushroom

        Axis of Evil's untouchable

        When Dubya & Bliar were going on about the axis of evil developing nukes, Saddam said I'm not, Kim said I am and Amerdinajad said nothing.

        Iraq got invaded, NK got aid. What message does that send to Iran or any other rogue state?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      let's hope

      they don't decide to prove you wrong

  5. nuked
    Happy

    So glad we're not totally taking the piss out of a rogue nuclear state.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Meanwhile Britain

    Hopes to develop the technology to build a washing machine size lump of scrap

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Meanwhile Britain

      After tranche 3 though it will be refrigerator sized and BAE will be billions over budget.

      1. Lunatik
        Trollface

        Re: Meanwhile Britain

        Lewis? Is that you ?

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile Britain

          Surly they should just buy one from the US...

          1. Richard 81

            Re: Meanwhile Britain

            Ah, so you're Lewis.

            1. hplasm Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Meanwhile Britain

              No, I'm Lewis- and so is my wife...

      2. asdf Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile Britain

        I Am Spartacus! (too bad %90 of people on here far too young to catch the reference)

    2. Scroticus Canis
      Unhappy

      Re: Meanwhile Britain

      We did. Wasn't it called the Beagle or something like that? Got scrapped on Mars if my memory serves me still.

  7. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "is thought to house a camera"

    And how would they bring back the film to develop the photos?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "is thought to house a camera"

      Easy... it has a small post card attached to the outside of it saying "If found, please return to N. Korea".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "is thought to house a camera"

        But will never be returned because they can't afford to put a stamp on it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "is thought to house a camera"

          "But will never be returned because they can't afford to put a stamp on it."

          Well if I find it I'll steam an unfranked stamp off a Christmas card and use that. How's that for generosity?

    2. Richard 81

      Re: "is thought to house a camera"

      Well the US used to dump it in the sea and go pick it up. Of course NK aren't allowed out, and they can hardly knock on anyone else's door to ask for their ball back.

      1. Julz

        Re: "is thought to house a camera"

        Actually caught most in mid air as the canister parachuted down.

    3. Alfred

      Re: "And how would they bring back the film to develop the photos?"

      The eighties called; they want their photographic film back and they're willing to swap you off-the-shelf 21st century digital technology.

      1. Oninoshiko

        Re: the eighties called

        Yes the eighties called, but they called collect from North Korea.

        It's worth pointing out, we are talking about the giant black blob above South Korea on every satellite photo of the region. It's really quite amazing how underdeveloped it is, Pyongyang is one of the only blobs of light. Korea is also one of the few places where you can clearly see the border a political border on a satellite photo (the Korean Demilitarized Zone shows up as a line of light).

        Still, I bet the night sky is beautiful there.

        http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/108308/enlarge

  8. garbo
    Holmes

    Out of Control?

    Following the satellite's orbit here:

    http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=39026

    Can't see the wobble. More US propaganda?

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Out of Control?

      You wouldn't see it wobble in a satellite track. If it's tumbling end over end it's not moving from side to side, is it?

    2. Richard 81

      Re: Out of Control?

      I wouldn't have thought its course would deviate unless it was spraying something to give it thrust.

  9. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    North Korea peeing in the orbital pool?

    Take that, first world!! Our oscillating washing machine will clean the skies of your multi-billion dollar satellites!!

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: North Korea peeing in the orbital pool?

      Funny, but I thought someone would have gone with the 'Why hello Hans Blix... ' from the use of the puppet image used in Team America, World Police. (F - Yeah!).

      They could have made a joke that its really a coffin for Matt Daemon or Alex Baldwin... Or something along those lines...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Some experts believe that by launching a rocket now, North Korea's young new leader and sexiest man alive, Kim Jong-Un, hopes to gain a new bargaining chip for future negotiations."

    Leave them alone. No more aid, no more nothing. Anything you give them they use to get the next handout. Let them starve, when the people get hungry enough, maybe THEY will do something about THEIR government. The fact is, we give them food and NK sells it for money. The people never see the food anyway. Cutting of all aid will mean the upper class might feel the squeeze.

    1. Alfred

      "Let them starve...,

      "Let them starve..., when the people get hungry enough, maybe THEY will do something about THEIR government."

      They didn't. Vast numbers of them starved in the nineties and there was no revolution. It is an enduring myth that a starving population will revolt.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Let them starve...,

        And that is something that the North Korean people will need to deal with; not a hard concept to grasp. If they want to do nothing, that is THEIR choice. The rest of the world should do the same. When the people show they are willing to oppose their governemnt, we should do the same. You can't help those that won't help themselves first.

        1. Reg Blank
          Flame

          Re: "Let them starve...,

          Hey coward, simple reading comprehension will inform you that I said you had the whole bomb-them-into-submission mindset to a tee. If you knew who Harris and LeMay were, you would have understood why I compared you to them. I won't make that mistake again.

          Collective punishment, whether by strategic bombing campaigns, economic sanctions or blockades, or simply shoving the helpless up against a wall and putting a bullet in their heads, ALWAYS FAIL. A keen observer of history and diplomatic niceties like you would know this, surely?

          Why? Because you are initiating a hostile action against a population. That just brings a society closer together. We are social animals, and when threatened we naturally band together to deal with danger. History has shown that it may be logical not to, but social dynamics over-rides such logic and means that we do. That is why collective punishments fail.

          In case I haven't been explicit in why I refer to this, YOU have been advocating a collective punishment (starvation) as a means to coerce regime change in NK. It is both ignorant of why it will fail in general, and why it will fail in NK in particular.

          It may be that not providing NK with food is a passive action, but do you think the NK elite will help you getting the distinction to the average Comrade Kim?

          No, the starving millions will be told that they are dying because America wants them dead. And how will they know America doesn't? Seeing as the elite controls all media, and all public discourse, and 60 years of indoctrination means that they also control PRIVATE THOUGHTS to an unparalleled degree.

          NK is one giant cult compound, and when threatened with outside intervention (even when it is supposed to be to their benefit), cults tend to explode with suicidal violence.

          You have made the mistake (because your argument is incredibly shallow and ill-conceived) of thinking that NK is a rational society of normal people living normal lives. NK is an incredibly irrational society of indoctrinated people behaving abnormally. For 60 years an entire population has lived with NO CHOICE but obedience to a cult figure. They probably no longer even know there is a choice. Choices are easy when you make them every day, but what if you have spent your entire life without the ability to make important life choices? How easy is it then?

          You are right, they will have a choice. They will choose death. When confronted with a threat from the outside, and with all discourse controlled by the ruling elite, North Koreans will choose to slowly die by the millions. Many estimates say they have already starved to death by the millions, and the stories from NK defectors of families dying are truly horrific. But don't worry, all this suffering will be hidden away from your view. You will never have to watch the results of such a policy.

          As you are a coward, I don't know what country you live in, but I'm going to assume that just like mine it doesn't let the mentally ill commit suicide without attempting to help them. We don't just keep walking when they CHOOSE to stand on the train tracks.

          NK has a population of about 25m. You seem to be OK with potentially tens of millions of mentally ill people committing suicide. I'm glad that most people are not.

          If my reply seems a bit heated and my attitude to you rude and snotty, it is because I find your callous disregard for suffering humans abhorrent.

          1. JohnG Silver badge

            Re: "Let them starve...,

            The snag is that providing aid (and specifically, providing more aid when NK threaten those around them) is accepting the demands of a protection racket that keeps the regime in power. As NK stipulate what aid they will accept and distribute it themselves, they are free to starve their people as much as they like and tell them that whatever they have comes from their leader and the rest of the world is responsible for all their woes.

    2. Reg Blank
      WTF?

      "Let them starve..."

      I love tough-guy comments by swinging Anonymous dicks advocating the deaths of millions of people by slow starvation with a thoughtless throw-away comment before stuffing their face with industrialised carbs and sugars they had no part in producing. Food is easy if you don't have to actually grow it - and it is nothing until it is taken away.

      What a superstar!

      Has the failure of all previous economic sanctions efforts from u-boat blockades to Food-for-Oil programs not educated you that they will never result in "regime change"? They are a collective punishment that actually forces a society to be MORE reliant on a central authority.

      And you are seriously advocating the deaths of millions of North Korean citizens in order to, some how in some way, set those same citizens FREE? Well, the ones who didn't starve to death first under your little final solution.

      I don't know whether you are the re-incarnation of Air Marshal Arthur Harris or General Curtis LeMay, but you seem to have the same lets-bomb-them-into-submission mindset.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Let them starve..."

        What a tool you are superstar.

        "I don't know whether you are the re-incarnation of Air Marshal Arthur Harris or General Curtis LeMay, but you seem to have the same lets-bomb-them-into-submission mindset."

        Who said anything about bombing, I simply said leave them alone and do nothing for them. Either the North Korean people want a change or they do not. By them not doing anything, the obviously do not want a change. So by doing nothing, you are doing exactly what they want, nothing. Is that concept that hard to grasp? Also by doing nothing, the upper class also no longer gets a free ride on the backs of all the aid that is given to them. By North Korea getting nothing at all and all the sanctions still in place, where exactly will they be finding the funds to live large? North Korea is allies with China, let China foot the bill. If the Chinese do nothing for them, that tells you something right there. By giving no aid, North Korea will either sink or swim; it is time to find out. The current method doesn't work at all and actually only benefits the upper class anyway. So by giving aid to, what is really being accomplished?

  11. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Here's an idea...

    what if it's a chimera- designed to take other satellites out. Then North Korea can just say 'whoops- sorry, the satellite entered an unstable orbit and accidentally took out a spook spy cam'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's an idea...

      You nasty, cynical suspicious person. I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's an idea...

      That *might* work once but if it is repeated then it would be an act of war. Future launches of North Korea would also be blown out of the sky before reaching space. "ooops, sorry, looks like we were test firing a rocket and your rocket came into its path."

  12. bwalzer

    This seems a bit mixed up...

    ... but that's OK. Various other media outlets got it wrong. The orbit is fine. In fact they pretty much nailed it if they are doing earth observation. That's pretty hard to do as things go and represents a fairly significant technical accomplishment. The satellite is tumbling. That may not mean the end of the mission. They might be using a stabilization technique that takes a long time. Such techniques have limits of course...

    There is no real extra risk of collision. Many (most?) science satellites in low earth orbit have no method of propulsion and none would be expected for a first crack at a space vehicle. Low earth orbit is littered with junk. One more object will not change things at all. SOP is to track as many objects as possible and then move any valuable satellites out of the way if there is a conflict. There is nothing like air traffic control for low earth orbit.

    1. Andrew Newstead

      Re: This seems a bit mixed up...

      Had a look at the orbital parameters of the bird earlier. It's perigee (lowest point in it's orbit) is 505 km (about 300 miles). That means it has a fair orbital life before it will reenter the atmosphere, probably about 10 years give or take 2. As was mentioned, it'll be tracked and any conflicts will be handled by moving the affected satellite out of the way if possible. The biggest worry is that the Korean satellite will fall to pieces before it's orbit decays. Then it becomes a much more difficult object to predict as there could be debris that can't be tracked properly and as the pieces bump against each other here could be slight changes in orbits to account for, not much of a change but the error will build up over time. I think the biggest worry for me would be any propellant tanks rupturing, that could have the effect of shredding the satellite and we would be looking at a cloud of debris that would spread out further the longer it stays in orbit.

      Hope this helps.

  13. DougS Silver badge

    Not rad-hard perhaps?

    I wonder if NK was not able to get rad-hard chips and tried to shield standard off the shelf ones. Building a rocket is a lot easier than building a chip fab, even one using 20 year old technology. Unless their sort-of friends in the form of China and Russia decided to give them rad hard chips, they might have had to find another solution via the black market.

    Perhaps they thought they had acquired some on the black market, but the US secretly fed them ones that wouldn't survive in space after all, much like when they sabotaged the software the Soviets stole and used in that Siberian NG pipeline explosion during the Cold War 30 years ago. Given the NK don't have the resources to build/launch rockets very often, something like that sets them back another year or two as they have to figure out what went wrong and build another one.

    Just a theory.

    1. Reg Blank
      Mushroom

      Re: Not rad-hard perhaps?

      I saw a couple of rad-hardened Sandia Labs 808x clones on eBay a couple of months ago. Out of my price range unfortunately, as they went for a couple of hundred dollars each. NK should look at making an eBay account.

      Also, rad-hardened Soviet 808x clones (unlicenced ones, this time) also pop up on eBay. Really, eBay is an cartoony super-villain's best friend.

      Icon: Muahaha!

  14. Trevor Marron

    Can the 'mercans not just shoot it down with their fricken great laser thingy?

    1. Horridbloke
      Headmaster

      @Trever Marron

      Unfortunately not, sharks cannot look up.

  15. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Flame

    ...Had the satellite been deployed successfully, however, any nighttime photos it took would have revealed what more advanced countries have long known: that North Korea remains a backward, poverty-stricken nation, where such basic technologies as electric lighting are reserved for an elite few...

    Or, alternatively, that North Korea is a guiding beacon in the environmental community, and does not waste any energy or emit any light pollution...

    Which is where we'll be in 20 years if the greens have their way...

  16. Donald Becker

    Putting a satellite into a stable orbit is not "a pretty hard thing to do" if you have a working rocket. Putting it into the exact orbit you want is challenging.

    They pretty much said "watch this" then "nailed it". ("We _meant_ for that to happen.")

    I doubt that the satellite is slowly trying to stabilize itself. Satellites that are expected to have long operational lives have flywheels (momentum/reaction wheels) to conserve maneuvering fuel. They attempt to use coils working against the earth's (weak) magnetic field if the wheels build up too much speed, falling back to conventional attitude jets. But all of this is complicated and difficult to get working, so short-lived satellites use only attitude jets. Even the smallest jets should be able to stabilize the satellite in minutes.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Working as intended?

      In space, no-one can hear you tick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Creepy.

      Nice sssssatellite you've got there, would be a ssssssshame if anything happened to it.

  18. Matthew 3

    Satellite is to search for friends

    ...as the chap who had the idea was quite ronery.

  19. alain williams Silver badge

    It is a technological triumph

    even if we are being pursuaded to think that it is a joke. They have had to get many things right to put it up there; even if not everything appears to have worked properly.

    Heaping derision is the way that our politicians try to keep us thinking negative thoughts about NK. It is all politics. I am not saying that NK is the best of nations or that it could find better ways of spending money; but the black & white view is simplistic.

    But to say that the only purpose is to bomb the USA (so we should be afraid) while the USA has its own ICBMs is complete hypocrisy, such technology has multiple uses. In a similar way we are told that the only reason that Iran has a nuclear programme is to make bombs - ignoring other purposes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is a technological triumph

      All true - maybe they're not happy with DHL, and so they're leading the way in same-day courier services, and the ICBMs are simply a part of that.

      1. mad_dr
        Joke

        Re: It is a technological triumph

        Prior art:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_mail

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: It is a technological triumph

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RocketMail

    2. Flatpackhamster

      Re: It is a technological triumph

      It's only a 'triumph' if you excuse the idiocy that made NK a starving wasteland of misery rather than a successful prosperous nation.

      It's a bit like if you nailed your hands together and then learned to play the trombone, and then wondered why we weren't all applauding you for your brilliance.

  20. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Joke

    Is the satellite simply saying:

    "Hey, I am out that country, I do not have to listen to them any more. Hey, look what I can do! I can tumble! Doesn't seem to achieve much, but maybe I'll find out what it's for later"

  21. Leona A
    Mushroom

    If the US don't like it,

    then why don't they do what they usually do the countries with dictatorships?

    Send in the troupes to overthrow their government in the name of peace and democracy.

    Oh right, they don't have any oil, that's why.....

    1. Alfred
      Headmaster

      Send in the clowns...

      A circus troupe, would that be?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: If the US don't like it,

      >then why don't they do what they usually do the countries with dictatorships?

      Fund their military to kill any commie guerillas who want their land back?

      Sell them weapons to fight the aformentioned commies

      Lend them "voting advisors" to kill any upitty nuns who complain

      Arrange for them to ship their drugs into the USA without any police getting in the way and for the money to be delivered safely to Switzerland

      Unfortunately NK's only mind-expanding export is kimchi - and even Hollywood starlets won't inhale that.

  22. David Glasgow

    We may be at war with Oceana

    ...... But the chocolate ration is up

  23. Oliver 7

    I'm not a fan of American foreign policy but North Korea really is a wacky place. I don't understand why we provide them with food aid, whilst they pursue ballistics and nuclear research. If we stopped providing aid and the country eventually fell apart is this scenario really scarier than the present regime? Surely China would step in anyway?

    As far as Iran goes I entirely understand their perception that they need nuclear weapons, most of their borders are with countries either under direct occupation by the US, with a US presence or under the influence of the US. The US have also armed their mortal enemies in the region and Syria is no longer a powerful ally to them. However at least they can feed their own people and afford a space programme at the same time!

  24. BrentRBrian

    Running TRIAL version of WIN8

    Oops ... we forgot to get that TRIAL version ACTIVATED ... crap ... now it won't talk back ...

  25. Purlieu

    Ah, I see

    Instead of the drum revolving, the drum stays still and the whole machine revolves. You can only do this in space. Safely. The "payload" is 5 kgs of Kim Jong-Un's dirty socks, which should be fairly clean by now. If somebody remembered to put the powder in. It must be up to the spin cycle by now, so expect to see it increase the speed of the revolutions. This is what they meant by "People's Glorious Revolution". In Space no-one can hear you clean. Thanks God it's friday. It's only tuesday, Crap.

  26. David Kelly 2

    If Obama had not grounded the Shuttle...

    ... we could go and pick up North Korea's garbage. Bring it home for a laugh.

    If for no other reason that would be useful to P.O. "the sexiest man alive."

    1. Andrew Newstead

      Re: If Obama had not grounded the Shuttle...

      Er - no, shuttles could not be launched into polar orbits like the one the Korean satellite is in.

      BTW, the shuttle grounding started with GWB, Obamha just followed through with it.

  27. sjsmoto

    In my head I'm hearing...

    At last, after two thousand years of research, the illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator. At last...

    Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

  28. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Scoff all you want, even the US had trouble in the beginning

    The West should never under estimate what is happening out in the Far East. Only 50 years ago, South Korea had no toilet paper and look where they are now.

    North Korea has obviously got the rocket bit right, and the satellite is in orbit which is good enough to throw an atomic weapon at the USA.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Scoff all you want, even the US had trouble in the beginning

      Well the goddam' gooks should do what we had to.

      Just go to Germany and pinch a few Nazi scientists

  29. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    A dud? Perhaps not.

    They've got us all looking up while they sneak ashore.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Local G
    Devil

    "All war is deception." Sun Tzu

    Country that tumbles its satellites, have very fluffy future.

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