Launch vehicle Unha-3
Launch site Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea
Date/Time 2012-04-12 2239 UTC
Description First stage failure
Cause to be determined
Payload Kwangmyongsong-3
Desired orbit Low-Earth orbit

The rocket broke up shortly (some 60 to 90 seconds) after lift-off while flying over the Yellow Sea. To the surprise of most observers, North Korea acknowledged the failure, which occurred during the burn of the rocket's first stage.

"The Earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit," the state-run KCNA news agency said. "Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said "that U.S. systems detected and tracked a launch of the North Korean Taepo Dong-2 missile at 6:39 p.m. EDT [2239 UTC]. The missile was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea. Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 km west of Seoul, South Korea. The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat."

South Korea said the rocket broke up into some 20 pieces and plunged into the sea. Japan's NHK television network quoted Japanese defence officials who said the rocket split into four pieces and fell into the Yellow Sea. ABC News reported U.S. assets detected a "larger than expected" flare from the rocket about 81 seconds after lift-off.

Last updated: 14 April 2012

Launch Failures Chronology