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North Korean Unha-3 rocket at launch pad.jpg
Unha-3 at launch pad in April 2012
Function Expendable carrier rocket
Manufacturer Korean Committee of Space Technology
Country of origin North Korea
Height 28–30 metres (92–98 ft)
Diameter 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in)
Mass 89,000–91,000 kilograms (196,000–201,000 lb)
Stages 3
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites Sohae
Total launches 2
Successes 1
Failures 1
First flight 13 April 2012[1]
Last flight 12 December 2012[1]
First stage
Length 15 m (49 ft)
Diameter 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)
Engines 4 Nodong 2-1[2]
Thrust 1200 kN[2]
Specific impulse 252 sec[3]
Burn time 120 seconds[3]
Fuel IRFNA / Kerosene[2]
Second stage
Length 8.8–9.3 m (29–31 ft)
Diameter 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)
Engines Modified Scud[2]
Thrust 140 kN[citation needed]
Specific impulse 255 s[3]
Burn time 110 seconds[3]
Fuel IRFNA / Kerosene[2]
Third stage
Length 3.7–5.7 m (12–19 ft)
Diameter 1.2–1.25 m (3 ft 11 in–4 ft 1 in)
Engines unknown[2]
Thrust 54 kN[citation needed]
Specific impulse 230 sec[3]
Burn time 284 seconds[3]
Fuel UDMH/NTO[2]
North Korean missile launches over Japan
①: Taepodong-1 ②: Unha-2 ③: Unha-3 ④: Kwangmyŏngsŏng (Unha-3) ⑤: Hwasong-12 ⑥: Hwasong-12

The Unha or Eunha (Korean: 은하, 銀河, "Milky Way")[4][5] is a North Korean family of expendable carrier rockets. The Unha-1, Unha-2, Unha-3 and Unha-4 (Kwangmyongsong) partially utilize the same delivery system as the Moksong-2 ICBM (known as Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile in the West).[6][7]

The Unha family will include a 400 tons rockets known as Unha-9 (called Safir-3 in Iran) needed to put payloads into GEO, a civilian launcher based on the Moksong-3 ICBM, called Taepodong-3 in the West.[8]

A manned version based on an up-rated Unha-9, with additional strap-on boosters would double the liftoff thrust, suitable for placing a spacecraft in orbit.

The following launcher, the Unha-20 (Safir-4 in Persian) is able to deliver 20 tons into LEO. [9][10]


North Korea's first orbital space launch attempt occurred on August 31, 1998 and was unsuccessful. This launch attempt was performed by a Paektusan-1 rocket and based on the Moksong-1 ICBM called Taepodong-1 in the West, which used a solid motor third stage, a Scud-missile-based second stage, and a Nodong-1 based first stage. Nodong-1 was a North Korean-developed stage thought to be a scale-up of the old Soviet Scud missile. The Paektusan-1 stood 22.5 metres (74 ft) tall, was 1.8 metres (6 ft) in diameter, and weighed about 21 tonnes.

It is in the class of the Iranian Safir-1 launcher. For placing working satellites into orbit, NADA and ISA have designed a full family of larger modern satellite carriers, called Unha (Safir-2, Safir-3 in Persian).

Unha-1,Unha-2, Unha-3 and Kwangmyongsong (Unha-4) Vehicles description


The Unha-1's first stage consists of four clustered fixed Nodong motors, which themselves are enlarged Scud motors. The steering is done via four vernier engines and planar air fins. Each main engine of 32 tons-force thrust (reaching 37 tons-force for the final Unha-4 version) share the same turbo pump with one vernier. This differs from the Iranian Safir-2 (Simorgh) design that uses a fifth turbo pump solely dedicated to the four vernier engines. The four auxiliary vernier engines are designed to move up and down to 36 degrees, controlled by a gyro-stabilized autopilot.

North Korea's rocket engines are connected to turbopumps that are powered by high-temperature high-pressure gas generated when kerosene, which is used in aviation, and nitric acid, which is an oxidizer, are combined.[11]

Vernier engine debris from Kwangmyongsong LV's first stage as captured by South Korea on February 2016, indicates it burnes Red fuming nitric acid (RFNA) / kerosene propellants. [12]

Anti-corrosion fluorine component added to the fuel of Kwangmyongsong LV in February 2016, were not present in the 2012 wreckage.[13]

Stages are separated by Mild Detonating Fuze (MDF).

Six acceleration motors on the interstage section between stages 1 and 2 are used to boost stage 2, while four braking motors on stage 1 slow it slightly.

The second stage was initially thought to be based on the SS-N-6, although it, too, is now believed to be based on Scud technology.[2]

But better pictures of the Unha-4 (Kwangmyongsong) have confirmed that it was indeed powered by a single main engine of 32 tons-force and four steering verniers.[14]

The third and last stage might be identical to the Iranian Safir's second stage which is propelled by two small gimballed motors.[2][15]

One single Unha-3#2's main engine launched in 2012 develops a thrust of 27 tons, and the thrust of one single auxiliary vernier engine is 3 tons. The total thrust of the Unha-3#2's first stage is 120 tons, the thrust of the second stage is 30 tons, and the thrust of the third stage is less than 10 tons respectively.

However, the new Kwangmyongsong (Unha-4) launched in 2016, is fitted with improved engines developing increased thrust, so the first stage has a thrust of 150 tons, the second stage has a thrust of 50 tons, and the third stage is estimated to produce 20 tons of thrust.[16] The new name means that this project is now completed.

The South Korean Ministry of National Defense estimated the captured payload fairing of the Unha LV used to launched Kwangmyongsong-4 in 2016, to have a a height of 1m95cm, a diameter of 1m25cm.

It is estimated that the Kwangmyongsong LV (launched in 2016) has a payload capacity of 1,000kg.[16]

Unha-9 Vehicle description

Model of a Unha-9 rocket on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang.

Designed to compete with South Korea's KSLV-II, it will be able to place 1 ton into GSO.[17] The newly tested Paektusan-1 rocket engine (백두산-1을, 白頭山一號, or March 18 Revolution) that develops 80 tons-force at liftoff will power the first stage in a cluster of four units. Unlike the 37 tons-force rocket engine of the Kwamgmyomgsong, the new Paektusan-1 engine is fully gimballed, as first seen on the Hwasong-15 configuration.[18]

Manned Unha Vehicle description

Designed to compete with South Korea's KSLV-III, it will be able to place 8 tons into LEO. This manned version based on an up-rated Unha-9, with additional strap-on boosters would double the liftoff thrust, suitable for placing a spacecraft, similar to the Chinese CZ-2F.[19]

According to a February 11, 2018, Iranian roadmap, this launcher should be available by 2026.[20]

Unha-20 Vehicle description

Designed to compete with South Korea's KSLV-IV, it will be able to place 20 tons into LEO. It will be used also in the North Korean Deep Space Exploration Program that includes the Moon and Mars.[18]

Revised Romanization Eunha
McCune–Reischauer Ŭnha

Launch history

The possible launch of Unha-1 on 4 July 2006 from Tonghae, and classified as Taepodong-2 launch in the West, seems to have failed only after 42 seconds, and thus has never been made public.

On 24 February 2009, North Korea announced that a Unha rocket would be used to launch the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite.[21] According to the South Korean government, the launch took place on 5 April[22] from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in Hwadae county.[23] Several countries, including South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, voiced concerns that the launch would violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 which prohibits North Korea from testing ballistic missiles.[24] Russia also announced they urged North Korea to refrain from its planned rocket launch.[25]

On April 5, 2009 the Unha-2 rocket was launched at around 02:30 hours UTC (11:30 hours KST).[26] The U.S Northern Command said that the first stage of the rocket fell into the Sea of Japan, while the other rocket stages as well as the payload fell into the Pacific Ocean, and no object entered orbit.[27][28] Later analysis indicated the rocket impacted 2,390 miles (3,850 km) from the launch site, and that the second stage operated normally but the rocket's third stage failed to separate properly.[29] North Korea maintains that the rocket successfully put its payload in orbit.[30]

On December 12, 2012, the Unha-3 Unit-2 rocket was launched at 00:49 UTC (7:49 EST).[31] The U.S Northern Command said that the first stage of the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea, while the debris of the second stage was assessed to have fallen into the Philippine Sea and confirmed that the satellite had entered orbit.[32]

The Earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, was launched by the DPRK on 7 February 2016 with a Kwangmyongsong Launch Vehicle (Unha-4), on a SSO with a 500 kilometres apogee and a 494.6 kilometres perigee, with an inclination of 97.4 degrees, as transmitted to the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.[33]

Designation Date Launch Site Payload Outcome
Unha-1 4 July 2006 Tonghae North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2#1 Failure
Unha-2 5 April 2009 Tonghae North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2#2 Failure
Unha-3 13 April 2012 Sohae North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3#1 Failure[34]
Unha-3 12 December 2012[35][36] Sohae North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3#2[37] Success
Kwangmyongsong (Unha-4)[38] 7 February 2016 Sohae North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 Success

See also


  1. ^ a b Krebs, Gunter. "Unha ("Taepodong-2")". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i David Wright (22 February 2013). "Markus Schiller's Analysis of North Korea's Unha-3 Launcher". All Things Nuclear. Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f David Wright (March 20, 2009). "An Analysis of North Korea's Unha-2 Launch Vehicle" (PDF). Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  4. ^ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NC22Dg01.html
  5. ^ Kim, Jack (2009-03-13). "FACTBOX: North Korea's Taepodong-2 long-range missile". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
  6. ^ "North Korea positions rocket for April liftoff". AP. 2009-03-27. Archived from the original on 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  7. ^ https://imgur.com/ptYvJzg
  8. ^ http://www.jajusibo.com/sub_read.html?uid=20161
  9. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/uriminzok/33667839040/
  10. ^ https://i.imgur.com/D5SMkXv.jpg
  11. ^ http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0002180023&PAGE_CD=ET001&BLCK_NO=1&CMPT_CD=T0016
  12. ^ http://view.inews.qq.com/a/20170320A0AZKV00
  13. ^ http://photo.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2016/04/27/2016042702788.html
  14. ^ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C7SsJ01VoAACX6K.jpg
  15. ^ http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/post-launch-examination-of-the-unha-2
  16. ^ a b http://www.jajusibo.com/sub_read.html?uid=25927&section=sc38&section2
  17. ^ https://media.giphy.com/media/XB0qsXM1t4IKs/giphy.gif
  18. ^ a b http://www.jajusibo.com/sub_read.html?uid=29662&section=sc38
  19. ^ http://07.imgmini.eastday.com/mobile/20170407/20170407135115_ff8957ede4e26f33fe2e415331af14d5_4.jpeg
  20. ^ https://twitter.com/inbarspace/status/962706277557252096
  21. ^ 朝鲜将发射"光明星二号"试验通讯卫星 (in Chinese). Xinhua. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  22. ^ "North Korea fires long-range rocket: reports". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  23. ^ "Kim tours rocket launch area". The Straits Times. 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  24. ^ "US Warns NK Not to Launch Rocket". The Korea Times. 2009-03-14. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  25. ^ "Russia urges North Korea to refrain from rocket launch". Asiaone News. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  26. ^ "Defiant N Korea launches rocket". BBC News. April 5, 2009. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  27. ^ "NORAD and USNORTHCOM monitor North Korean launch" Archived 2012-10-17 at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Northern Command News. April 5, 2009. Last accessed April 5, 2009.
  28. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe; Cooper, Helene; Sanger, David E. (2009-04-06). "North Korea Seeks Political Gain From Rocket Launch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  29. ^ Craig Covault (10 April 2009). "North Korean rocket flew further than earlier thought". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  30. ^ "TEXT-N.Korea says it successfully launched satellite" Reuters UK 5 April 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
  31. ^ "North Korea carries out controversial rocket launch". CNN. December 12, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  32. ^ "North Korea Successfully Launches Satellite: Reports", SPACE.com, December 12, 2012 (accessed 24 Sept. 2014)
  33. ^ http://www.unoosa.org/res/osoindex/data/documents/kp/st/stsgser_e768_html/ser768E.pdf
  34. ^ http://www.space.com/15258-north-korea-rocket-launch-fails.html
  35. ^ "North Korea fires long-range rocket in defiant move, South Korea says". Fox News. 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  36. ^ http://www.rfa.org/english/news/korea/delay-12102012141437.html
  37. ^ "North Korea announces rocket launch date". Al-Jazeera. 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  38. ^ http://www.jajusibo.com/sub_read.html?uid=25927&section=sc38&section2

External links

  • "An Analysis of North Korea’s Unha-2 Launch Vehicle," David Wright, March 20, 2009.
  • Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Notebook: North Korea’s nuclear program, 2005", "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists", May/June 2005.
  • "Footage Of North Korean Rocket Launch" April 5, 2009.
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