The satellite launched by North Korea’s long-range rocket is in operational orbit, South Korea’s defence ministry said on Thursday, confirming the apparent success of Pyongyang’s stated space mission.
The satellite sent into space by the North’s Unha-3 rocket on Wednesday, is “orbiting normally”, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.
“It is not yet known what kind of mission the satellite is conducting. It usually takes two weeks to evaluate whether a satellite is successful. For the time being, it is working normally,” Kim said.
North Korea said on Wednesday’s launch was a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite in space.
Most of the world saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions imposed after the North’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
For the international community, the precise nature of the satellite – along with the question of whether it is operating properly – is largely immaterial.
The main concern is that the rocket succeeded in delivering its payload successfully, marking an important step forward for Pyongyang’s long-range missile programme.
Analysis by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute showed the satellite was moving between 494 and 588 kilometres above the Earth – nearly in line with the figures announced by the North on Wednesday – Yonhap news agency said.
The UN Security Council has condemned the launch and warned of possible measures over what the US called a “highly provocative” act.
The council made it clear it considered the North had used proscribed “ballistic missile technology” and highlighted a warning made after a failed launch in April that it could take “action” if there was a new attempt.