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Norks uses ballistic missile to launch silent 'satellite'

Glorious starving peoples' rocket attracts UN sanctions and presidential palpitations

The UN Security Council has threatened North Korea with the terrors of the Earth after its weekend ballistic missile test.

Meanwhile, radio hams are gearing up to work out whether the satellite's making any contact with Earth.

Norks' launch, which also put a satellite into orbit, the Kwangmyongsong-4, which was detected by the US Strategic Command.

The launch put the satellite in a polar orbit, as tracked by here, and means that should KMS-4 start transmitting, radio amateurs might be able to hear it. However, Livejournal blogger phasenoise also notes that previous North Korean satellites have remained silent.

Phasenoise notes that the two-line element NORAD's given the satellite (#41332 on this list) is as follows:

1 41332U 16009A 16038.94716212 -.00000079 00000-0 00000+0 0 9995
2 41332 97.5290 87.3471 0026293 335.5274 193.3204 15.27430518 130

As Spaceflight Insider explains, that matches Norks' official announcement that the satellite is in a polar-synchronous orbit, perigee 307 miles (about 495 km) and apogee 311 miles (500 km) with a cycle of 94 minutes and 24 seconds.

NORAD has also assigned a two-line element to a second object, most likely the upper stage of the launch vehicle.

The fact that Norks would send an uncommunicative lump into space, with no telemetry or data transmitted to Earth, is one of the reasons the rest of the world suspects the launches are ballistic missile tests.

The UN Security Council has called the launch a “serious violation” of sanctions already in place, which ban nuclear weapons research, ballistic missiles, luxury goods imports to the country, and blacklist a number of individuals and entities.

According to Reuters, current president of the UN Security Council, Venezuela's Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno says the council will “develop significant measures in a new Security Council resolution in response to the nuclear test” as well as to the missile launch.

Responses would include voting on new sanctions, possibly as early as this month. However, any sanctions mean persuading China not to use its veto in the Security Council. US ambassador Samantha Power said “There cannot be business as usual after two successive acts”, according to Agence France-Presse.

The launch is likely to feed into the paranoia that's infesting the US presidential race. Over the weekend, during a Republican Party debate, candidate Ted Cruz gained headlines and incredulity in equal measure by saying Norks is preparing to attack America with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon.

That's unlikely for the moment, given the paltry yield of its most recent nuclear test.

South Korea says the North is already preparing its next nuclear test. ®

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