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North Korean Missiles

Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2)

Technical Details
Payload (kg) 100-500
Range (km) 3,500-4,300 (2-stages)
4,000-4,300 (3-stages)
CEP (m) unknown
Diam. (m) 2.2/1.3
Height (m) 32
L. W. (kg) 80-85,000
Thrust (Kg f) Effective: 30,432 per chamber
Actual: 31,260 per chamber
Effective: 104,204
Actual: 170,040
Burn time (sec.) <330?
Launch Acceleration (g's) ~1.4-1.5 or 1.3
Thrust Chambers 4, 1, 1
Stages 2, 3
Stage 1
Height (m) ~16
Diameter (m) ~2.2
Launch Weight (kg) ~60,000-61,000
Launch Thrust (kg f) ~102,880-104,000
Burn Time (sec.) ~120-130
(20% Gasoline + 80% Kerosene)
(27% N2O4 + 73% HNO3 +
Iodium Inhibitor)
Stage 2
Height (m) ~14
Diameter (m) ~1.32-1.35
Launch Weight (kg) ~15,200
Thrust (Kg f) Effective: ~13,160
Actual: 13,300-13,380
Burn Time (sec.) 110 max
Isp. (sec.) Effective: 226 - SL
Due to vanes steering drag loss of 4-5 sec.
Actual: 230 - SL
Vac: 264
Thrust Chambers 1
(20% Gasoline + 80% Kerosene)
(27% N2O4 + 73% HNO3 +
Iodium Inhibitor)
Propellant Mass (kg) 12,912
Stage 3
Height (m) ~3-4 total package
Diameter (m) ~1.3-2.0 flared skirt type design
Launch Weight (kg) unknown
Launch Thrust (kg f) unknown
Burn Time (sec.) ~100
Propellant Solid motor*
* May have been derived from existing Chinese designs.

The Taep'o-dong-2 (TD-2) is said to be a two or three stage missile with a range estimated at approximately 3,650-3,750 km with a 700-1,000 kg payload. Other sources credit the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** with a range in excess of 4,000-4,300 km. North Korea has given various names to the Taep'o-dong missile, such as No-dong-3, Hwasong (Mars)-2 and Moksong (Jupiter)-2.

According to Kim Kil Son, who prior to defection to south Korea in August 1997 worked in a publications department of north Korea's Number 2 Research Center, development of this missile started in 1987 after Kim Jong Il gave on the spot guidance to the Number 2 Research Center saying that "If we can develop this we have nothing to fear. Even the American Bastards won't be able to bother us. Whether we live or die, we must quickly develop the Hwasong 6."

As of late 1999, no flight test of this missile had been reported although these missiles have been observed on display in North Korea. (As with many other such activities in North Korea, apparently much of the work on North Korea missiles is done underground.) This is also reportedly the case in Iran. A liquid fuel engine test was detected at the Taep'o-dong rocket test stand in February 1994. Whether this engine was for the No-dong or Taep'o-dong-1 or the Taep'o-dong-2 is unclear. This seems premature to have been a test firing for the Taep'o-dong-2 first stage booster and it is therefore assumed to be associated with the Taep'o-dong-1 booster test. That would essentially have been a No-dong test firing which is the first stage of the TD-1. All of these North Korean engines are using highly corrosive and highly toxic so called storable propellants. These engines can only undergo one test firing before they have to be torn down cleaned out and reassembled for further firings, installation on launch vehicles for a flight test, or missile deployment. This is what is done with Titan-4 core stages liquid fuel engines. So in a sense they are always single first time firing engines never tested before flight. It either works or it does not. In all probability the test firings of the TD-2 first stage engines have only taken place in the last two or three years. They may have first been conducted in Iran but that is uncertain. Published reports that multi-stage missiles have been seen stacked and unstacked in Iran fail to clarify whether the missile in question was the TD-1 or the much larger TD-2.

A declassified CIA report to the Congress estimated that North Korea would require 10-15 years to develop an ICBM capable of delivering a chemical, biological, or nuclear warhead. However,1998 Rumsfeld report concluded that

"There is evidence that North Korea is working hard on the Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2) ballistic missile. The status of the system's development cannot be determined precisely. Nevertheless, the ballistic missile test infrastructure in North Korea is well developed. Once the system is assessed to be ready, a test flight could be conducted within six months of a decision to do so. If North Korea judged the test to be a success, the TD-2 could be deployed rapidly. It is unlikely the U.S. would know of such a decision much before the missile was launched. This missile could reach major cities and military bases in Alaska and the smaller, westernmost islands in the Hawaiian chain. Light-weight variations of the TD-2 could fly as far as 10,000 km, placing at risk western U.S. territory in an arc extending northwest from Phoenix, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin. These variants of the TD-2 would require additional time to develop and would likely require an additional flight test."

The first stage of the TD-2 is said to bear a close resemblance to the Chinese CSS-2's and CSS-3's first stage, but is slightly smaller. Other reports suggest that the first stage of the Taep'o-dong-2 is almost identical to the Chinese CSS-2. The diameter of the TD-2's and the NKSL-X-2's** first stage are apparently closer to 2.2 meters verses the 2.25 m diameter of the Chinese CSS-2 and the Russian SS-5 with its body diameter of 2.4 m. The TD-2/NKSL-X-2** is also shorter in length. This indicates that the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** first stage will have inferior performance compared to the Russian SS-5 and the Chinese CSS-2/DF-3, 3A and CSS-3/DF-4. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggest that the TD-2/NKSL-X-2** first stage engine probably uses four No-dong thrust chambers with a new turbo-pump machinery to create a new first stage multiple thrust chamber open cycle engine. This turbo-pump machinery was probably developed jointly by Iran and North Korea with perhaps some help from China under technology-sharing arrangements that evolved in the mid-1990's.

It is generally believed that the second stage of the TD-2 is based on the No-dong missile. A widely circulated illustration from Jane's of the TD-2 and other new North Korean missiles depict a TD-2 first stage that is significantly shorter than that of either the CSS-2 or the CSS-3. This may merely be a consequence of the low fidelity of these notional cartoons [the ND-1 is depicted as having the same diameter as that of the Scud, which is not the case]. However, this may also reflect the limited available information concerning the TD-2 at that time. The wide range of estimates of the range of this missile may be a consequence of the vehicles actual length and thus fuel capacity.

Taepo-dong-2 reflects the least optimized upper stage design which will limit its range performance to below that of the Chinese advanced LRICBM CSS-3A/DF-4 of 4,500-4,750 km. TD-2's range capability is closer to 3,750 km with two stages but three stages could raise that performance to 4,000-4,300 km. The Taep'o-dong-2 is not the most optimized launch vehicle design in its performance possibilities because of its aspect ratio's and mass fraction that is the length to diameter ratio creating potential in flight structural problems as well as excess structural mass. North Korea has probably had considerable trouble adapting the structurally heavy No-dong second stage to their new Taep'o-dong-2 first stage. It reflects on poor engineering design decisions both in its structural design and imposed performance penalties verses the PRC Chinese DF-4/CSS-3 design as is self evident from the range performance data shown in North Korean missile overview chart. It is also emphasized in their design differences shown in the accompanying illustrations. Thus its performance due to structural requirements will suffer accordingly. Whether Iran has adapted the North Korean Taep'o-dong -2 design for its Shehab - 5 and Shehab - 6 is unclear at this time. It is strongly suspected that the Iranian will utilize the Taepo-dong-1 type design for its Shehab-4/Kosar? satellite launch vehicle design that could also be deployed as an Iranian derivation of the Taep'o-dong-1 strategic ballistic missile with performance similar to that of the SS-4. Yet this also remains unclear. Indeed Iran has suggested that its Shehab-4 will be the last rocket it will develop even though there are suggested evidence to the contrary.

**NKSL-X-2 is an unofficial designation created by Charles Vick. NKSL-X-2 is a Tae po dong-2 missile with a third stage and satellite added.

Launch Facilities

During the fall of 1998 and spring 1999, modifications were made to the Taepo'dong-1 launch facility to make it capable of accomodating flight testing of the Taep'o-dong-2. The one factor that stands out with this No-dong and Taep'o-dong launch facility and the North Korean launch vehicle designs is the fact that the facilities are not designed for winter time operations but only for the occasional satellite launch campaign in the spring (summer) or fall of the year. The launch vehicles designs as exemplified by the Taep'o-dong-1 and Taep'o-dong-2 are not easily prepared for launch and do not illustrate the most optimum design for strategic semi mobile or strategic silo deployment. This Taep'o-dong launch site is what would be classified as a soft site instillation very vulnerable to observation and attack which means it was not designed as a strategic weapons facility.

Recent Developments in the Taep'o-dong-2 Program of North Korea

During 1999 preparation was detected for what was expected to be the launch of the much larger Taep'o-dong-2 satellite launcher/ballistic missile. Beginning in May 1999, US Intelligence picked up indications that the Taep'o-dong-1 launch site had been undergoing modified to accommodate the Taep'o-dong-2. Compared to the previous pad gantry umbilical tower (with a height of about 22 meters), the new pad gantry umbilical tower is 1.5 times taller, standing about 33 meters tall. This rebuild was nearly complete as of late July 1999, and as of early August 1999 it appeared that the Taep'o-dong-2 vehicle was already complete and was stored near the launch pad. However, it had not been transported over to the launch pad. It is said that it would take two days to assemble the missile on the launch pad before checking it out electronically and then load liquid propellants from several tanker trucks. What could have been detected by Intelligence was North Korea carry out the facilities post construction testing once the facility rebuild had been completed. By year's end these activities were abandoned with no launch being attempted.

Estimates based on limited data
Taep'o-dong-2 / Shahab-5
Range-Payload to Throwweight Trade-offs
Stages Payload Range
kg Pounds km Miles
Two or Three
Stage variant
1,000 2,205 3,500 2,175
750 1,654 3,750 2,330
570 1,257 4,000 2,486
500 1,103 4,100 2,548
420 926 4,248 2,640
403 889 4,264 2,650
390 860 4,300 2,672

This certainly indicates that the Taep'o-dong-1, launch to place a satellite in Earth orbit was not merely carried out for its propaganda opportunity, but it was also used as a pathfinder to prove the engineering "building block approach" for the future larger launch vehicle to follow Taep'o-dong-2. Beyond the short lived limited proof of principal program the North Korean military industrial leadership may have also envisioned some limited economic benefit from third world countries such as Iran. Apparently Iran did indeed purchase one for its technology transfer benefit for the Shahab-4 program but then shelved it.

The Shehab-4/Kosar satellite launch vehicle as well as the Shehab-5/LRICBM and Shehab-6/Kosar potential satellite launch vehicle/LRICBM have now been identified as being an apparent Iranian variant of the North Korean Taep'o-dong 1 and 2 missile series by the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC). Alternatively NAIC also suggested that the Iranians may be using solid propellant upper stages based on acquired Russian technology or requested assistance from the PRC. During the Spring of 2000 it was unclear which variant of North Korean hardware was being developed by Iran for the Shehab-4/Kosar/Iris and Shehab-5, and or Shehab-6. Iran is also said to be working with the North Koreans providing technical teams to the North Korean launches. The Iranians come in a specially equipped with a Boeing-707 that apparently is filled with Chinese provided telemetry monitoring equipment for satellite and ballistic missile test launches. This Iranian cooperation apparently also extends into the propulsion arena for the Taep'o-dong-2 first stage/No-dong derived rocket engine development.

It is definite that Iran is receiving No-dong engines from North Korea based on two separate intelligence documented event reports that have been publicly published. This is perhaps the strongest series of indication that the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile and satellite launch vehicle programs are one and the same programs. North Korea and Iran have tended to present and or mask their strategic ballistic missile programs as satellite launch vehicle programs verses reality. It is now suggested that the Taep'o-dong-2 will be deployed with out flight testing by North Korea according to NAIC. Research and development on the TD-2 continues unabated according to these reports. The U. S. Government through the Department of State issued two year duration sanctions on June 27, 2001 against Changgwang Sinyong Corp. of North Korean Company that provided the No-dong class liquid propellant rocket engines to Iran. This was the second time sanctions had been brought against this company in North Korea.

According to some media reports, North Korea has conducted three or four static test firings of Taepo-dong missile engines at Musudan Base in North Hamgyong Province between December 1999 and January 2000. Some of these test firings no doubt involved the static test firing development of the Taep'o-dong-2 first stage four thrust chamber engine. The engine alone could be static tested at a vertical position or horizontally or at 45 degrees from the vertical all of which are quite normal testing procedures used in the liquid propellant rocket engine industry through out the world.

This in turn lead to the more recent late June or early July 2001 North Korea use of its new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad to static test fire its integrated first stage with its four thrust chambered engine or engines as reported in The Washington Times. On July 3, 2001.(Gertz, Bill, "N. Korea tests its missile engine", The Washington Times, 3, July 2001, pp. 1 and 7.) The burn mark from that firing was very prominent according to the imagery news reports.

That report on the static test firing of what had to be the Taep'o-dong-2 first stage on the launch pad failed to note that the static test firings could only have been conducted in a vertical position not horizontally as suggested. Such stage firings are never done in the horizontal for liquid propellant systems. It was sitting up vertically on the pad firing its flame jet downward into the pad flame bucket, which ducts under the gantry umbilical tower and out the concrete trench into the local foliage. It was placed on the new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad beside its new gantry umbilical tower. The first stage was tested to check out the stage readiness for flight. That places the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 class space booster one step from being flight tested of the once they tear-down the first stage engine cluster clean it up, reassemble and install it back in the first stage.

Iran may have tested the IRIS booster last year that failed at 105 seconds in flight. Regardless that could have been a flight test of the second and third stages of the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 space booster/ballistic missile. This certainly explains the appearance of 3 mobile propellant tanks and 3 additional tank trucks along with a series of 9-10 support trucks/vehicles on the Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad infrastructure recently observed in new imagery taken by Space Imaging of North Korea Taep'o-dong launch site. What will follow both in Iran and North Korea's remains to be seen.

If, in fact North Korea has abandoned its Taep'o-dong-1 booster in favor of its Taep'o-dong-2 booster program as it does appear then that certainly has possible immediate implication in spite of being down played by U. S. officials. They certainly scrapped the launch site pad and gantry umbilical tower and built an entirely new launch pad and much taller gantry umbilical tower to handle the Taep'o-dong-2 and follow on booster systems. The North Korean launch site and its combined gantry umbilical tower and flame bucket use the same plan form as that used by China in its Long March launch vehicle program.

The question that emerges from all of this is whether Iran will in fact flight test the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5, 6 class booster for North Korea and Iran in place of North Korea. This is because North Korea can not afford to do so due to its international agreements not to flight test its ballistic missiles. Equally this would imply that Iran did not want to waste its time and money repeating the Taep'o-dong-1 pathfinder program and instead chose to go for the real systems engineering goal instead nearly two years ago.

Is it inconceivable for North Korea to ship the jointly developed and tested Taep'o-dong-2 booster first stage to Iran where it would be mated with the Iranian Shahab-3D/IRIS second and third stages of the booster to launch a satellite already announced into Earth orbit? Is that Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 booster about to be shipped to Iran now? Only time will tell.

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