Dr Morris Jones, who has written previously for The Interpreter, is an Australian space analyst.
The announcement of an imminent satellite launch by North Korea has sent the international community into a frenzy. There is no need to reiterate most of the debate that has since appeared amongst foreign policy wonks, but one recent point does need a rebuttal.
US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has briefed our newly installed foreign minister on the upcoming launch. Unfortunately, some of the subsequent news reports (and certain headlines) have the potential to cause unnecessary fears in Australia. They suggest that Australia is literally in the line of fire for this launch.
It is a matter of record that the launch will fly roughly southwards from the Korean peninsula, on a trajectory that will take it over waters east of the Philippines. If the rocket functions correctly, the satellite will pass over Western Australia on its first orbit.
Hard hats are regularly worn in Western Australia by mining workers. I would suggest that there is no need to don them for the North Korean satellite launch. It is most, most unlikely that any material from this launch will impact in Australia, regardless of the performance of the rocket. A nominal launch will see nothing at all. A failed launch will almost certainly miss us entirely, and we will not even have a North Korean satellite flying above us.
The satellite launch certainly deserves the attention of the international community, for reasons known to anyone who reads this blog. However, shoddy news reporting does not serve us well.
Photo by Flickr user same_same.