North Korea plans to launch a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite into space sometime within the next three weeks, the Associated Press reports. That's according to an official at the International Maritime Organization in London, which is responsible for regulating shipping and safety of international waters. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that North Korea declared the launch would happen sometime between February 8th and 25th. Such a launch will likely be decried by the international community as a way for North Korea to test out long-range missile technology.
Along with the IMO, North Korea has also made its intentions known to the International Telecommunications Union, CNN reports. The ITU is a United Nations agency that helps to manage global telecommunications technologies, including communications satellites in orbit.
The launch will happen sometime between February 8th and 25th
Many experts have speculated within the past month that North Korea may launch a satellite soon. Satellite imagery has shown increased activity at the Sohae satellite launch facility in the northwestern area of the country. The images revealed what looked like hardware and propellant being moved around the site. There was also activity on the launch pad itself, but it's not clear if the site has a rocket yet, Reuters reports.
The launch would come on the heels of North Korea's nuclear weapons test in early January. A satellite launch is more benign than a nuclear bomb, but officials say there is cause for concern, because the same technology for rockets could be used to further development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
North Korea caused similar distress in December of 2012, when it successfully launched its first communications satellite into space. It took two launches to get the satellite into space, and after the probe was finally inserted into orbit, the satellite eventually started tumbling out of control. Despite the failure, the launch was condemned by the White House as "another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior."