North Korea’s new satellite flew over Super Bowl site

TOKYO — Here’s a bit of Super Bowl trivia: North Korea’s newest satellite passed almost right over the stadium just an hour after it ended.

Whatever motives Pyongyang may have about using its rocket launches to develop nuclear-tipped long-range missiles, it now has two satellites circling the Earth, according to NORAD, the North American Aerospace Command, which monitors all satellites in orbit.

Both of the Kwangmyongsong, or “Shining Star,” satellites complete their orbits in about 94 minutes and based on data released by international organizations tracking them, the new one passed almost right over Levi’s Stadium about an hour after the Super Bowl ended.

“It passed almost directly overhead Silicon Valley, which is where I am and where the stadium is,” tech watcher Martyn Williams said in an email to The Associated Press. “The pass happened at 8:26 p.m., after the game. I would put it down to nothing more than a coincidence, but an interesting one.”

The game in Santa Clara, California, ended at 7:25 p.m. local time.

North Korea claims Sunday’s successful satellite launch was its fourth.

The first two have never been confirmed by anyone else, but experts worldwide agree it got one into orbit in 2012 and NORAD, which is hardly a propaganda mouthpiece for Pyongyang, now has both that and the satellite launched on Sunday on its official satellite list.

Kwangmyongsong 4, the satellite launched Sunday, has the NORAD catalog number 41332 and Kwangmyongsong 3-2, launched in 2012, is 39026. They are described as Earth observation satellites, and weigh about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) apiece.

Their main applications, according to Pyongyang, are monitoring the weather, mapping natural resources and forest distributions and providing data that might help farmers improve their crops.

North Korea’s state-run media quoted scientists and researchers at the North’s State Hydro-Meteorological Administration as saying Sunday they are “are delighted at the news” of the launch. Its deputy director, Ryu Pong Chol, reportedly said it will give a big boost to North Korean weather forecasters.

That remains to be seen.

No signals from the previous satellite, which North Korea claimed transmitted the “Song of General Kim Il Sung” and “Song of General Kim Jong Il” after achieving orbit, have ever been confirmed by outside observers. That might be because it was never stable enough to transmit anything back home.

Signals from the new satellite had also yet to be detected. Amateurs and experts alike are doing their best to listen in around the world, but it is unclear exactly what frequency the satellite is supposed to be using, or what it will be transmitting.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said four objects from the 2012 launch are still trackable in their orbits — the satellite itself, the final stage of the Unha-3 rocket that lifted it into space and two small pieces of debris.

“It will stay up for a few more years,” McDowell said. “There’s no evidence that the spacecraft ever transmitted any signals. If it did work, I suspect it was for only a few hours, if at all.”

He said the satellite was in an initial orbit of 498×587 kilometers — figures that denote the object’s closest and farthest distance from Earth — similar to the orbit of the satellite launched Sunday. But over 3 years, friction with the Earth’s outer atmosphere has brought the older one’s orbit closer, to 467×529 kilometers. That’s still well above the orbit of the International Space Station.

“Perhaps if the new one works they’ll actually release Earth images from it,” McDowell said. “We’ll see.”

He also said the Super Bowl coincidence would fit known tracking data.

“I have no idea when the end of the Super Bowl was, not a sports fan,” he said. “But KMS-4 did pass over that part of California at 8:27 p.m. PST at an altitude of 480 kilometers. I calculate it was 35 miles west and 300 miles up as it passed overhead heading almost due north.”

For the space buffs out there, the orbits of both satellites can be tracked in real time on the website N2YO.com under the names KMS-4 and KMS 3-2.NFLNorth KoreaPyongyangsatelliteSuper BowlWorld

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police officers speak with people while responding to a call outside a market on Leavenworth Street in the Tenderloin on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SFPD makes the case for more officers, citing Walgreens video

Most of us have seen the video. It shows a man filling… Continue reading

A 14-Mission Muni bus heads down Mission Street near Yerba Buena Gardens. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

NO CONNECTION TO SERVER:
Unable to connect to GPS server ‘blackpress.newsengin.com’
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Courtesy Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed spoke at the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library main branch on April 20. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
SF reopening more libraries through the summer

After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for… Continue reading

Most Read