Reports that a North Korean rocket plunged into the Yellow Sea this morning will not spell the end of North Korea's rocket program, said a space and aeronautics expert from Pyongyang today.
"For North Korea, this program is 20 years old and they have already made three failed launches, so of course it's a problem," said Christian Lardier, an expert on rocket technology accompanying the international press corps for the North Korean missile launch.
"But they will not give up. They will try to find the reason of the failure, they will fix it and they will try again within two to three years."
North Korea has confirmed that the rocket launched on Friday failed to put its satellite into orbit and that its scientists are investigating the cause of the failure. CNN had earlier quoted U.S. officials as saying that the rocket appeared to break apart minutes after launch.
There have been no reports of any injuries or damage inflicted by falling debris, CNN said.
The launch, set to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-Sung, was seen as a chance to establish the legitimacy of North Korea's advanced weapons system.
Now the launch may serve as a major source of embarrassment for Pyongyang.
North Korean television today announced that the rocket launch had failed in the early stages of the launch.
"Failures are common in rocket testing," said Lardier, comparing the North Korean Unha-3 to Russia's development of its own Bulava missile system. "Missile technology is very complex. For example, if I compare [North Korea] with Russia, there is a program called Bulava and there were about 12 or 13 test launches and half of them failed."
Lardier said that the multi-stage rockets failure was likely tied to a problem with the rocket's propulsion or guidance system. "Today's launch probably had a problem with the first stage. There are two possible reasons, the propulsion or the guidance," said Lardier.
"If the propulsion system fails then the rocket explodes, and if the guidance system failed and the trajectory deviated, the self-destruct mechanism was used."
North Korea's announcement of plans for the satellite launch prompted worldwide condemnation. The G8 foreign ministers had urged North Korea to honor its commitments and cancel the launch.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday “there is no doubt that this [launch] would use ballistic missile technology.” She also threatened North Korea with possible sanctions. “If Pyongyang goes forward [in launching the rocket] we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action,” she said.
The United States, Japan and South Korea consider the launch as being in contravention of international obligations under UN Resolution 1718 and 1874, forbidding North Korea from carrying out ballistic missile test launches.
Under a deal signed in February, Pyongyang agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, in return for U.S. food aid.