phasenoise (phasenoise) wrote,
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Tracking North Korea’s Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite

It’s been a few hours since North Korea put another satellite into space — a massive technological step for the country and something widely condemned by other countries — but we’re still not much closer to knowing anything about what’s up in space. It only took a minutes for North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the U.S.-Canadian air/space early warning organization, to detect new objects in space coming from the North Korean rocket.

The objects have been identified as the Kwangmyongsong-4  satellite. Carrier rocket blasted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 09:00 on February 7, Juche 105(2016). The satellite entered its preset orbit at 09:09:46, 9 minutes and 46 seconds after the lift-off.

The satellite is going round the polar orbit at 494.6 km perigee altitude and 500 km apogee altitude at the angle of inclination of 97.4 degrees. Its cycle is 94 minutes and 24 seconds. NORAD has also issued data that describes the orbit of the satellite. Using the data, called a two-line element (below), it’s possible for satellite tracking software to determine where the satellite is at any moment.

They are space track object Catalogue numbers are #41332 and #41333.
1 41332U 16009A   16038.28127602 -.00000079  00000-0  00000+0 0  9991
2 41332  97.5265  86.6746 0026733 337.7015 131.9486 15.27430643    33
1 41333U 16009B   16038.19518981 -.00000088  00000-0  00000+0 0  9996
2 41333  97.5341  86.5830 0050384 335.5662  24.3144 15.32861013    25

Object #41332 which is likely the satellite, in a 465 x 502 km, 97.5 deg inclined sun-synchronous orbit with a 94.3 minute orbital revolution. This is a lower and more circular orbit than that of KMS 3-2 from 2012 (495 x 588 km initial orbit). The #41333.object that is likely the upper stage, is in a 433 x 502 km orbit.
North Korea official report stated that the Kwangmyongsong-4 has measuring and communications equipment for earth observation. It went on to credit the Workers’ Party of Korea for its keen interest in science and technology, leading to the North exercising its “right” to explore space in a peaceful manner.

The most North Korea has said about earlier satellites is that it would transmit on 470MHz, but we don’t know if that’s an exact frequency or just an indication of the frequency band. To-date, no one has reported hearing anything that could be coming from the satellite. No music, no data, no telemetry. Nothing.

And so trackers, including the N2YO online tracker, are active and can indicate where the satellite is at any one time. This is an important first step for anyone trying to hear any transmissions from Kwangmyongsong 4, because it’s only possible to receive signals from the satellite when it’s in range. You can see the area in range at any moment by clicking the “draw footprint” box underneath the N2YO tracker.
It could just be taking time to discover its frequencies. It’s a slow job because the satellite is only in range of any point on Earth for a maximum of about an hour a day, and that’s split into several passes of about 10 minutes long. If satellite is alive and frequencies are discovered then it may be we can capture transmissions with a ham radio equiment or even a cheap SDR dongle .

Radio enthusiasts in the past managed to decode communications from Iranian satellites as Omid and Rasad-1If North Korea KMS 4 really is an observation satellite , there is even the possibility that images can be received as is now possible with Russian Meteor Satellites.



As we wait for details concerning this morning’s North Korean rocket launch, you might want to read this powerpoint presentation by Mike Gruntman in Astronautics Now, which provides a pretty detailed examination of the facts concerning North Korea’s last log range rocket launch in December 2012. Mike’s ppt slideshow can be viewed here.


This post was assembled with several open sources including Hearsat, Seesat, NORAD, NY2O,North Korea Tech, Mike Gruntman, Matthew Aid and nknews.org.
Tags: satellite, sdr
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