Monday 27 May 2024

Gazing in my crystal ball: at what time will North Korea launch Malligyong-2? [UPDATED]

click to enlarge


I have been gazing in my crystal ball to come up with an educated guess of the launch time (and with that, the possible orbit) of Malligyong-2, the upcoming North Korean satellite launch (see previous post).

The Navigational Warnings for the launch are similar to those for Malligyong-1 (2023-179A, (see previous post), which was launched on 21 November 2023 and is orbiting in a sun-synchronous morning orbital plane. So it is likely that Malligyong-2 goes into a similar 97.4 degree inclined, 512 x 493 km sun-synchronous orbit.

It would make sense however if  Malligyong-2 would not be launched into the same orbital plane in terms of RAAN, but rather target a complementary orbital plane. [but:see update below...]

The Malligyong-1 orbital plane is currently making daytime passes over Pyongyang around 10:13 local Pyongyang time. It is a morning plane (meaning: daytime passes in the local morning, near 10 am).

Two options are then in order for Malligyong-2: one is launch into an afternoon plane complementary to the Malligyong-1 morning plane (i.e. resulting in passes with a  similar solar elevation but in the afternoon, mirroring the morning passes). The other is launch into a noon plane, roughly inbetween the two.

The image above depicts the afternoon variant relative to the Malligyong-1 orbit. The noon plane is the mid-line of the globe.

Assuming launch on May 28, the afternoon plane option would mean launch around 5:37 UTC (14:37 local Pyongyang time) and this resulting approximate orbit:

MALLIGYONG-2                  for launch on 28 May 2024  05:37:00 UTC
1 70000U 24999A   24149.67289979  .00008068  00000-0  36481-3 0    07
2 70000  97.4276 275.3747 0014260 279.3296  80.6327 15.21105052    08

Of course this remains speculation, fueled by my OCD desire for neat constellations...

We'll see when launch happens (and if it is successful).



Launch actually appears to have been May 27, 14:50 ~13:45UTC, and failed. I guess my crystal ball is over its expiration date....
The time of launch is actually consistent with launch into the same RAAN plane as Malligyong-1.


The North Korean State Press Agency KCNA calls the satellite in the failed launch "Malligyong-1-1" and indicates first stage failure caused the mishap, related to the "reliability" of a new LOX + petroleum engine. The wording is somewhat ambiguous on whether it concerns a new kind of rocket or a Chollima-1 stage: they do not name the rocket type, but mention a "new-type satellite carrier rocket".

It should be noted that during the previous Malligyong-1 launch, the Chollima-1 first stage also blew up, somewhat after separation of teh second stage (so it did no harm to the payload at the time). Here is footage of that occasion.

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