US Official: North Korean Satellite is Tumbling

Posted at: 12/13/2012 1:16 PM
Updated at: 12/13/2012 3:09 PM

nullSEOUL, South Korea (AP) - According to a senior U.S. official, the satellite that was launched yesterday by North Korea is tumbling in orbit, and not acting the way it should. But the official says that doesn't necessarily mean it's out of control.

Either way, the official says it's still significant that North Korea was able to successfully execute all three stages of the missile launch and get the satellite into space.

South Korea's Defense Ministry says the satellite is orbiting normally at a speed of 4.7 miles per second, though it isn't known what mission it's performing.

North Korea says the satellite will be used to study crops and weather patterns.

The launch captured the world's attention yesterday, adding to concerns that North Korea could be on its way to developing missiles that could hit the United States and other distant targets. But experts say the North is still a long way from that capability.

Experts: North still years away from reliable missile program

Even though North Korea finally has a rocket that can put a satellite in orbit, that doesn't mean it's close to having an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea gained attention and prompted outrage from world leaders yesterday with its first successful launch of a three-stage, long-range rocket.

But experts say the North is years away from even having a shot at developing reliable missiles that could hit the American mainland and other distant targets.

A missile program requires decades of systematic testing -- something extremely difficult for economically-struggling North Korea. It faces sanctions and world disapproval each time it stages a launch. It will also need larger and more dependable missiles, and more advanced nuclear weapons, in order to threaten U.S. shores -- though it already poses a threat to its neighbors.

Brian Weeden, an adviser to a think tank on space policy, says there's a "huge gap" between making a system work once, and having one that is reliable enough to be of use to the military.

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