Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station shows continued low-level activity that does not suggest imminent preparations for either the launch of a space launch vehicle (SLV) or engine test.
Low-level Activity at Launch Pad
Commercial satellite imagery from April 22 indicates that several small vehicles are present as are what appear to be small shipping containers in the launch pad’s fuel and oxidizer bunker area. The reason for this is unclear but probably involves either equipment installation or maintenance and repair following the February SLV launch.
No activity was observed at the gantry tower, moveable transfer structure or processing building on the launch pad. However, vehicle tracks to and from the pad area indicate continuing activity. The moveable transfer structure has not been observed to have moved in any imagery since the February launch.
Figure 1. Low level of activity at the Launch Pad.
Environmental Shelter Moved at Vertical Engine Test Stand
Imagery indicates that the rail-mounted environmental shed has been moved back up to the vertical engine test stand. The exact reason for this movement remains unclear. Possible explanations vary widely from the beginning of preparations for another engine test to normal maintenance and repair activities. However, there does not appear at the moment to be any other observable activity at the test stand nor has there been any since the April 9 engine test. The placing of siding on the test stand structure itself and the construction of the environmental shed were major contributors to masking of test preparations for the April test.
Figure 2. Environmental shelter has been moved at the Vertical Engine Test Stand.
Limited Activity at the Horizontal Assembly Building and Covered Rail Station
The April 22 image indicates that a single small vehicle is present in the parking area between the horizontal processing building and covered rail station. No other activity was observed although the installation of a shed over the rail stations during the past year has limited the ability to view the arrival of rocket components, equipment and supplies.
Figure 3. Vehicle seen at the Horizontal Assembly Building.
Other Facility Activities
The April 22 imagery shows very limited activity at other areas of the facility including:
- A single vehicle—probably a crane—present near the entrance of the administrative and security building near the entrance;
- Spring agricultural activity (e.g., planting of seedlings in cold frames, preparing the fields for planting, early spring planting, etc.) are underway as was a general cleaning upon of debris around the buildings; and
- The razing of support facilities 1.5 km west of the rail station appears to be almost complete suggesting that no major new construction will be undertaken in the foreseeable future. Members of specialized engineering units responsible for high-priority WMD and military projects may have probably moved elsewhere to an unknown location.
No activity was observed at the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) buildings and helicopter pad located west of the rail station, or the visitor housing and old satellite control building to the east of the station.
Figure 4. Crane parked at the administration and security buildings.
Figure 5. Support facilities razed.
Figure 6. No activity at the NADA complex.