Updated July. 31, 2014 05:29
North Korea appears to be nearing completion of the modifications of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, according to 38 North, a U.S.-based website on North Korea, on Tuesday (local time). North Korea launched the Unha-3 long-range missiles in April and December 2012.
According to the website, commercial satellite imagery from July 4, 2014 shows that three new upper levels of the gantry are complete with swivel platforms. "When completed, the new gantry will be able to support a rocket up to 50 to 55 meters in height, 20 to 25 meters taller that the 30 meter Unha-3," 38 North argued.
"Construction has progressed on a new wider access road and rail spur leading to the launch pad that will enable the movement of much larger rockets to the pad in the future," 38 North reported. "Work on the wider access road and bridge over a stream were completed in early July 2014." Overall, the modifications of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station will likely be completed next year, according to the website.
The satellite imagery taken on July 6 showed evidence of a new test series, including "distressed vegetation along the edges of the flame path past the flame trench and different stain patterns and colors inside the flame trench." Based on this, 38 North argued that North Korea is testing the first-stage engine of what is believed to be the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile.
In addition, the website reported that satellite imagery showed two domed structures built in the northwest area of the test center. "The internal layout of the larger structure indicates that it may be an auditorium intended for use as a training center, area for displaying SLV/missile hardware or as a launch control center that might accommodate VIPs, clients or the media," the website added.