North Korea’s Satellite Is Already Space Junk

This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 12, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un celebrating the launch of the Unha-3 rocket, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, at the general satellite control and command center in Pyongyang. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers and civilians rallied on December 14 in the centre of Pyongyang for a mass celebration of the country's long-range rocket launch, state television showed. AFP PHOTO / KCNA vis KNS

Maybe if North Korea hadn't bragged that its satellite was broadcasting "patriotic songs" it would be harder to tell when it wasn't working. As it is, scientists haven't heard any evidence of the supposed broadcast, and they still see it spinning out of control, so basically it sounds like the thing is now space junk. According to the South China Morning Post, the device's two missions were to "observe earth" and air the songs, but there's no sound coming from it. And as the New York Times explains, "the satellite, about the size of a washing machine, reportedly carries an on-board camera to observe the earth. That mission requires the spacecraft to remain quite steady." But it's spinning end over end, which scientists can see by its flickering. It might just be a washing-machine-sized chunk of metal now, but at least we'll be able to track it for a while to come. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told SCMP: "These things are hard to calculate, but roughly speaking, an object of that density at that height is going to stay up for a few years."