Eye on North Korea

Using commercial satellite imagery to model North Korean launch station buildings and structures


This 3D CAD model of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station’s gantry tower with the Kwangmyongsong satellite launch vehicle in place was developed using commercial satellite imagery and open-source intelligence. The model was created by Nathan Hunt and published in March on 38 North, a website dedicated to the analysis of North Korea by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

38 North, which aims to raise the bar on the level of discussion and understanding about North Korea, has been using commercial satellite imagery from companies such as Airbus Defence and Space and DigitalGlobe since 2012 to create panoramic models of Sohae and other sites. Hunt employs satellite imagery and Google Earth to determine the basic dimensions and create initial draft models of North Korean launch station buildings and structures, then mines open-source intelligence such as photos released online by the North Korean government to enhance the models in detail. 38 North has more models in the design phase and will soon implement new, more accurate geo-terrain features.

Visit 38north.org to learn more and to view satellite imagery and other models by Hunt.

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