More Debris from N.Korean Rocket Found

/Courtesy of the Ministry of Defense /Courtesy of the Ministry of Defense

The military here has found more debris from the North Korean rocket that was launched on Dec. 12, including the fuel tank and O-rings that connect the engine. The fragments were found 85 m under the sea 151 km west of the Byeonsan Peninsula, near where the oxidizing tank was found on Dec. 14.

"Fragments of the engine should make it possible to accurately determine the rocket's actual performance capacity and North Korea's level of technology," a military source said. Based on the capacity of the oxidizing tank the military officials have concluded that the rocket is capable of delivering a 500 to 600 kg warhead over a distance of more than 10,000 km.

The military here also confirmed that the North used red-fuming nitric acid (RFNA) as an oxidizing agent which ensures that the fuel continues to burn at altitudes where oxygen is scarce. RFNA can be stored for extended periods at room temperature but is rarely used in space rockets, since it is highly toxic and can cause sterility in humans.

"RFNA is usually used in missiles," a military official said. "That confirms suspicions that the rocket launch was aimed more at developing missile technology than a space launch vehicle."

A rocket expert with the Agency for Defense Development, who took part in the analysis of the North Korean rocket debris, said examining Iranian rocket and missile documents along with the debris indicates a missile connection between the two countries.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 24, 2012 09:08 KST