Paektusan (rocket)

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Function Carrier rocket
Country of origin North Korea
Launch history
Status Unclear
Launch sites Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground
Total launches 1
First flight 31 August 1998

The Paektusan (Korean: 백두산), also transliterated Baekdusan or Pekdosan is a North Korean expendable carrier rocket,[1] derived from the Taepodong-1[2] intermediate-range ballistic missile. It is a three-stage rocket, consisting of the two-stage Taepodong-1, fuelled by nitric acid and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, with a solid-fuelled upper stage to perform orbital insertion.[3] The name refers to Paektu Mountain, the highest mountain in North Korea.

The only reported launch of a Paektusan was conducted at 03:07 GMT on 31 August 1998, with the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 satellite.[4] Although North Korea claimed that the launch was successful, no objects were tracked in orbit, and the United States government claimed that the rocket's third stage failed.[4] Subsequent North Korean orbital launch attempts have used the Taepodong-2 derived Unha rocket, and it is unclear whether the Paektusan is still in service. On this launch, the designation Paektusan-1 was used; however, it is unclear whether this was a serial number, or part of the rocket's designation. According to experts North Korea spent approximately $20 million test-firing the Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, and experts guess it cost more this time since performance and capabilities including the airframe and range of the Taepodong-2 missile have been improved by more than 10 percent since the rocket fizzled ignominiously in a test in 2006.[5]

In a nominal launch, the first stage burns for 95 seconds, before separating, and landing about 250 kilometres (160 mi) downrange. The payload fairing separates 144 seconds after launch. This is followed by the depletion and separation of the second stage, 266 seconds into the flight, resulting in an impact about 1,650 kilometres (1,030 mi) downrange. The third stage, which is spin-stabilised, then burns for 27 seconds to insert the payload into Earth orbit.[4]


  1. 조선대백과사전 [Korea Encyclopedia], Vol. 28, Pyongyang: Paekkwasajŏnch’ulp’amsa, 2001, p. 165
  2. Shim Kyu-sŏn, Donga Ilbo, September 7, 2001, in “DPRK’s Taepo Dong Missile Named Paektusan No. 1"
  3. Wade, Mark. "Taepodong". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-04-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wade, Mark. "Kwangmyongsong 1". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-04-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The Choson Ilbo reports that the DPRK spent at least $30 million on the missile"