Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station from June 9 reveals new activity at the Vertical Engine Test Stand (VETS), which may indicate preparations for a new liquid-fuel engine test.
Figure 1a. Close up of the Vertical Engine Test Stand on imagery from June 5, 2023. Image © 2023 Planet Labs, PBC cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected]; Figure 1b. New activity at the VETS suggestive of engine test preparations. Image © 2023 Planet Labs, PBC cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].
Since June 5, the retractable environmental shelter has been moved forward onto the ramp which connects the apron to the test stand, and four to five vehicles have arrived on the apron.
During periods between tests, the retractable shelter is typically parked next to the test stand. In October, the shelter had been moved back onto the apron while construction work commenced.
The second stage failure during the satellite launch attempt on May 31 was attributed to the use of a new fuel, according to North Korean state media. Subsequent statements have indicated additional launches would follow soon, suggesting engine testing is needed.