North Korea’s new rocket engine too powerful for ICBMs, analyst says

SEOUL, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A North Korean rocket engine Pyongyang tested earlier this week may be too powerful for the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, raising speculations it could be used for space development.

Writing on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, analyst John Schilling said, “Given the size of the engine, they probably aren’t going to build an intercontinental ballistic missile with it.”

“The engine is too big and powerful for the KN-08 and KN-14 road-mobile ICBMs under development in North Korea,” the analyst stated.

On Tuesday, North Korea had stated that it successfully completed a test of a new satellite rocket engine and that Kim Jong Un had provided guidance during the test.

Kim reportedly said North Korea must become a geostationary-satellite state in a few years’ time and that space development is an important project for the Workers’ Party, according to KCNA.

Schilling said in his analysis that North Korea’s claim of an 80-ton thrust on the new engine cannot be verified from images and that it is “also possible that the North Koreans are exaggerating.”

But “the thrust may well be in the range of 160,000 pounds or 80,000 kilograms,” indicating technological advancements that surpass the engineering of “Russian Cold War leftovers.”

The analyst also said North Korea’s large engine development program appears to have learned from China’s space launch vehicle technology.

“China’s space launch vehicles, and some of their older ICBMs, use an engine called the YF-20 that is of the same size, performance and general technology as the new North Korean engine,” Schilling stated, adding it cannot be assumed China is helping North Korea and that it’s possible North Korea is procuring items on the “military side of the dual-use spectrum” from non-state actors.

North Korea’s continued provocations have been met with condemnations as well as speculations regarding a sixth test.

Lee Chun-geun, a scientist at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said Friday the elements are present for a more powerful nuclear test, according to Yonhap.

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