The Institute for Science and International Security has released a new picture of North Korea’s missile activity in the run-up to the anticipated launch in a few days.
This image:Was taken by DigitalGlobe at approximately 11:00 a.m. North Korea time on March 29. It’s of the Musudan-ri missile site and clearly shows what North Korea says is a space launcher.
ISIS points out you can also see the shadow from the missile launch gantry.
This is the clearest picture, yet, (publicly available, I should add), of the missile. ISIS suspects that the missile, which was installed around March 24, may previously have been shrouded by the North Koreans, which would explain why earlier images weren’t as clear.
The U.S. plans to have at least two Aegis ships monitoring the launch, although defense secretary Robert Gates told Fox News on Sunday there were no plans to attempt a shoot down.
The folks at the ArmsControlWonk blog have been following the North Korea launcher activity pretty closely and here’s their initial read from the ISIS picture: the first stage takes up about 2/3 of the missile. The third stage appears quite short with a fairly large nosecone fairing.
There will be plenty of interesting things to see once the launch happens. How will the Japanese react, what performance can the booster actually deliver, and will it impact the U.S. missile defense debate? It's likely to provide a boost for advocates of sea-based missile defenses, that's probably clear, regardless of whether North Korea's claims this is a space launcher not a missile are accurate.