Experts are keeping a close eye on North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station, wondering what the North may be planning at the facility.
Satellite images show recent activity at the site, leading to speculation that the hermit kingdom is planning another rocket engine test.
Most recently, North Korea launched the satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 into orbit from the site in 2016. Could the North be readying itself for another launch?
The remote base is locating among the hills of that region and has been the site of all North Korea’s satellite launches since 2012.
According to the experts at the US-based Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the secretive regime isn’t planning a new satellite launch – but it could be readying another test of rocket capabilities.
Tyre tracks and movements across the site have been noted in the commercial satellite pictures.
See the tire tracks in the picture below? Take special notice of the location of the ‘environmental shelter.’
Johns Hopkins SAIS’s 38North notes that several changes at the site between late November and late December indicate rocket tests may be in preparatory stages.
Between November 23 and December 25, the rail-mounted environment shelter was moved from its position flush against the vertical engine test stand to the center of the concrete apron. Tire tracks are visible on the concrete apron and in front of the vehicle garage on both dates. While there appears to be no activity at the stand’s fuel/oxidizer bunkers, this absence of activity has not been a reliable indicator for rocket engine test preparations in the past. The exact reason for the recent movement of the environment shelter and the presence of tire tracks is unclear. As noted in previous reports, the shelter has been moved to its current position on the concrete apron either to permit the receipt and preparation of rocket engines prior to testing or to unload them after a test.
[…] No activity of significance is visible on the launch pad or at its associated processing buildings, fuel/oxidizer bunkers and gantry tower. Construction, however, has continued on the new structure approximately 50 m to the southeast of the launch pad. The arrangement of the internal and external walls of this structure suggests an office complex with a footprint of approximately 1,050 m2. Its close proximity to the launch pad and processing buildings may mean that it is related to launch operations support.
Notice that the environment shelter was moved away from the vertical engine test stand by the time the picture below was taken.
Meanwhile, what appears to be an office complex is being constructed near the site.
While Mirror notes that it’s possible the activity is simply normal maintenance and repair, experts at Johns Hopkins SAIS say Kim Jong-Un is more likely planning another rocket test launch.
Although it seems the North isn’t readying itself for another satellite launch, it seems they are preparing rocket engine tests that could improve its missile/satellite launching capacities.
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