North Korea tests new type of high-thrust rocket en­gine

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Eric Tal­madge

North Korea has con­ducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket en­gine that leader Kim Jong Un is call­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary break­through for the coun­try’s space pro­gram, the North’s state me­dia said Sun­day.

Kim at­tended Satur­day’s test at the So­hae launch site, ac­cord­ing to the Korean Cen­tral News Agency, which said the test was in­tended to con­firm the “new type” of en­gine’s thrust power and gauge the re­li­a­bil­ity of its con­trol sys­tem and struc- tu­ral safety.

Kim called the test “a great event of his­toric sig­nif­i­cance” for the coun­try’s in­dige­nous rocket in­dus­try, the KCNA re­port said.

He also said the “whole world will soon wit­ness what event­ful sig­nif­i­cance the great vic­tory won to­day car­ries” and claimed the test marks what will be known as the “March 18 rev­o­lu­tion” in the devel­op­ment of the coun­try’s rocket in­dus­try.

The re­port in­di­cated that the en­gine is to be used for North Korea’s space and satel­lite-launch­ing pro­gram.

North Korea is banned by the United Na­tions from con­duct­ing long-range mis­sile tests, but it claims its satel­lite pro­gram is for peace- ful use, a claim many in the U.S. and else­where be­lieve is ques­tion­able.

North Korean of­fi­cials have said that un­der a five-year plan, they in­tend to launch more Earth ob­ser­va­tion satel­lites and what would be the coun­try’s first geo­sta­tion­ary com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite — which would be a ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance.

Get­ting that kind of satel­lite into place would likely re­quire a more pow­er­ful en­gine than its pre­vi­ous ones. The North also claims it is try­ing to build a vi­able space pro­gram that would in­clude a moon launch within the next 10 years.

The test was con­ducted as U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son was in China on a swing through Asia that has been closely fo­cused on con- cerns over how to deal with Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams.

It’s hard to know whether this test was de­lib­er­ately timed to co­in­cide with Tiller­son’s visit, but Py­ongyang has been highly crit­i­cal of on­go­ing U.S.-South Korea wargames just south of the Demil- ita­rized Zone and of­ten con­ducts some sort of high-pro­file op­er­a­tion of its own in protest.

Ear­lier this month, it fired off four bal­lis­tic mis­siles into the Sea of Ja­pan, re­port­edly reach­ing within 120 miles of Ja­pan’s shore­line.

Ja­pan, which was Tiller- son’s first stop be­fore trav- el­ing to South Korea and China, hosts tens of thou­sands of U.S. troops.

North Korea has marked a num­ber of suc­cesses in its space pro­gram.

It launched its lat­est satel­lite — the Kwangmy­ong­song 4, or Bril­liant Star 4 — into or­bit on Feb. 7 last year, just one month af­ter con­duct­ing what it claims was its first hy­dro­gen-bomb test.

It put its first satel­lite into or­bit in 2012, a feat few other coun­tries have achieved. In 2013, ri­val South Korea launched a satel­lite into space from its own soil for the first time, though it needed Rus­sian help to build the rocket’s first stage.

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