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(LEAD) Analysis of debris shows N. Korea's Feb. rocket launch was not for satellite: experts

All Headlines 13:42 April 27, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 2 paras & photo)

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) -- An analysis of debris from the long-range rocket launched by North Korea in early February showed that it lacked the crucial mechanism necessary to protect a satellite through the course of its bumpy flight, military experts said Wednesday.

The signs point to the February launch not being used to send a satellite into space as claimed by the North.

On Feb. 7, North Korea launched the long-range missile in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the country from nuclear and ballistic missile activities.

The North claimed the launch was only intended to place an Earth observation satellite into orbit, but the UNSC denounced it as a long-range ballistic missile test and adopted a new series of sanctions.

Immediately pinpointing why it was a ballistic missile instead of a satellite-launching rocket was difficult because the two kinds of launches use virtually the same technology.

On the date of the launch, South Korea retrieved the rocket's debris that dropped in waters near South Korea, including the fairing, the nose cone that protects a rocket's payload.

A recent analysis of the retrieved fairing, however, showed that it did not have the proper mechanism to protect the satellite the rocket was carrying as a payload, the experts claimed.

An acoustic blanket and other protection mechanisms should have been in place to protect the satellite from the shock, noise and heat involved in a rocket's flight, but the rocket lacked those devices, evidence that the launch was not truly for the satellite's purpose, according to the experts.

"The fairing of the long-range missile North Korea launched in February did not have any protection cover to protect the satellite from shock, bumps and heat at all," an expert noted, citing the result of the analysis.

The satellite the North put into orbit has not sent any signals since February 10, the expert said, indicating that the satellite was only a cover for the test, which was actually for long-range missile technology.

"The result shows that the North's long-range missile launch was not for the development of satellites but for the development of ballistic missiles," he also added.

The rocket launched in February seems to be the same model the country shot off in December 2012, the expert noted, citing the same diameter, height, nozzles and accelerator motor used in both.

By conducting the second test on the same rocket, "the North seems to have enhanced the reliability of the rocket's components," the expert said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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