Launch of North Korea's most powerful ballistic missile fails: reports

A passerby in Seoul, South Korea watches footage of a North Korean missile blasting off on Nov. 3, 2022. (Image credit: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

North Korea launched yet another missile on Thursday (Nov. 3), this time lofting a powerful long-range vehicle, but the effort failed, according to media reports.

The nation launched a record 23-missile barrage on Wednesday (Nov. 2), perhaps as a show of displeasure with ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Those tests involved short-range missiles, however, while a brawnier vehicle took off on Thursday.

A "South Korean government source said officials suspect it was a Hwasong-17, North Korea's most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile," CNN reported (opens in new tab). The test failed, according to that source, who spoke anonymously to CNN.

Related: North Korea's rocket and missile program (photos)

South Korean Air Force F-15Ks and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launch on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. (Image credit: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

The Hwasong-17 has flown before. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) aced its debut test flight in March, according to the North Korean government. Western experts aren't so sure about that story, however; some think that the earlier mission failed as well, and North Korea covered it up via the subsequent launch of a different missile, the Hwasong-15.

North Korea's flurry of launches on Wednesday and Thursday continue a trend. The nation has flown more than 50 missiles already in 2022, according to NBC News (opens in new tab)

The March launch — of a Hwasong-17, if you believe the North Korean government, or a Hwasong-15, if the skeptics are correct — was particularly noteworthy. That missile stayed aloft for 71 minutes and reached a peak altitude of 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers), about 15 times the height of the International Space Station, before splashing down in Japanese waters.

One missile from Wednesday's 23-rocket barrage was the first to land south of a sea-border buffer area between North Korea and South Korea since the peninsula was split between the two nations in 1948, NBC News reported.

The latest test on Thursday, even though it apparently failed, prompted the United States and South Korea to extend their exercises indefinitely, the South Korean Air Force said in a statement reported by CNN.

The air force stated that "it was necessary to demonstrate a solid combined defense posture of the bilateral alliance under the current security crisis, heightened by North Korea's provocations."

The international exercises started Monday (Oct. 31) and reportedly include thousands of military personnel from the two countries along with 240 aircraft, according to the U.S. Defense Department. North Korea has been objecting to these exercises in statements all week.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace