FunctionSmall-lift space launch vehicle
Country of originNorth Korea
Height36.2 m[citation needed]
Diameter2.4 m[citation needed]
Payload to LEO~300 kg
Associated rockets
Launch history
Launch sitesSohae Satellite Launching Station
Total launches3
First flight30 May 2023
Last flight21 November 2023
First stage
Engines4 Paektusan
Thrust1,568 kN (176,250 lbf)
Second stage
Third stage

Chollima-1 (Korean: 천리마 1호, cf. Chollima, a Korean mythological horse and Chollima Movement, a North Korean Stakhanovite movement) is a North Korean launch vehicle. Chŏllima-1 will be used by North Korea to launch satellites into orbit. The rocket has 3 stages and the first stage is based on the Hwasong-17 ICBM.[1] The rocket was launched from a coastal launch platform in the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. The rocket has been developed to compete with the South Korean Nuri rocket.


On 30 May 2023, Chollima-1 made its first orbital launch attempt, from Sohae Satellite Launching Station, carrying the military reconnaissance satellite Malligyong-1 (meaning Telescope-1).[2] However, the launch failed to achieve orbit when the second stage ignited too early in the mission,[3] due to engine unreliability and fuel instability according to officials.[4] The launch vehicle crashed into the Yellow Sea.[5]

The South Korean Ministry of National Defense identified and recovered an object that appears to be a rocket stage or an interstage in the sea about 200 kilometres (120 mi) west of Eocheong Island.[5] This debris, identified as being the second stage of the launcher, nevertheless sank, complicating its recovery.[6][7][8][9] Other recovery operations followed for 36 days and made it possible to find the third stage of the launcher as well as the Malligyong-1 satellite, which were thus analyzed jointly with the United States, both to verify the origin of its components (and identify supply subsidiaries and foreign suppliers) and to assess the performance of the satellite, which was considered to be very low for military use.[10][11][12]

Although North Korea hardly ever communicates in advance about its missile tests, it does when it wants to launch satellites, probably to pose as a respectful space power.[13] The country had therefore warned Japan but not South Korea that it would carry out a space launch between May 31 and June 11 after having mentioned the finalization of the satellite a few weeks earlier.[14][15]

However, despite the fears publicly expressed by these two countries of a possible disguised missile launch, South Korean maritime patrols were quickly set up in the fallout zones of the rocket stages, which allowed them to quickly recover debris.

However, missile alerts (sirens and SMS) were triggered in Seoul and Okinawa Prefecture by mistake.[16]

North Korea announced a second attempt to launch a new copy of Malligyong-1 for the end of August 2023, and revealed the fallout zones of the stages. The second launch attempt took place on 23 August 2023. The launch resulted again in a failure with the loss of the satellite, this time caused by an error in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight.[17] The country immediately announced a new attempt for October 2023. However, due to undisclosed technical delays the launch was later rescheduled for late November.[18] The third launch attempt took place on 21 November 2023 and resulted in the first successful launch of Chollima-1.[19]


Chollima-1 has 3 stages. This new rocket, based on images released by North Korea, appears to be a different launcher from those of the previous Unha family. It appears to be abandoning the Scud heritage and take a design based on the recent Hwasong-15 and 17 ICBMs with advanced rocket engines based on the suspiciously acquired Soviet RD-250.[20][21] Although the capabilities of the launch vehicle are not public, Chollima-1 appears to be able to launch payloads of up to 300 kilograms (660 lb) into low Earth orbit.[22]

Similarly, analysts believe that if North Korea still manages to supply itself with foreign components despite the sanctions, it manages to increasingly master local construction, becoming autonomous.[22]

Launch history

Satellite Launch Date


Launch Site Status Purpose
Malligyong-1 #1 30 May 2023 Sohae Satellite Launching Station Launch failure Military reconnaissance satellite
Malligyong-1 #2 23 August 2023 Sohae Satellite Launching Station Launch failure Military reconnaissance satellite
Malligyong-1 #3 21 November 2023 Sohae Satellite Launching Station Success Military reconnaissance satellite


  1. ^ "First Flight of North Korea's "Chollima-1" SLV Fails, but More Launches and More New SLVs Are Likely". 38 North. June 7, 2023.
  2. ^ AP (May 31, 2023). "North Korea spy satellite launch fails as rocket falls into the sea". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 31 May 2023. Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  3. ^ "Why does North Korea want a spy satellite so badly, and what went wrong with its attempt to launch one?". 2023-05-31. Archived from the original on 2023-05-31. Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  4. ^ Park Si-soo (May 31, 2023). "North Korea's spy satellite launch fails with second-stage malfunction". SpaceNews. Retrieved June 1, 2023..
  5. ^ a b Yoonjung Seo; Junko Ogura; Brad Lendon (May 31, 2023). "North Korea says satellite launch fails, plans to try again". Archived from the original on 31 May 2023. Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  6. ^ Jeongmin Kim (June 16, 2023). "South Korea recovers rocket debris from North Korea's botched satellite launch". NK News. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  7. ^ Yonhap (June 16, 2023). "Des débris de la fusée nord-coréenne ont été repêchés durant la nuit". Yonhap (in French). Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  8. ^ Photo of the rocket stage available on: Yonhap (June 16, 2023). "Retrieval of sunken N. Korean space rocket wreckage". Yonhap. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  9. ^ Photo of the rocket stage available on: Associated Press (June 19, 2023). "North Korea calls failed spy satellite launch 'the most serious' shortcoming". NBC News. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  10. ^ Song Sang-ho (July 5, 2023). "(2nd LD) S. Korea retrieves N. Korean spy satellite wreckage, ends salvage operation: military". Yonhap. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  11. ^ Timothy W. Martin; Dasl Yoon (July 5, 2023). "North Korea's Failed Spy Satellite Wasn't Ready for Military Use, Seoul Analysis Shows". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  12. ^ Shweta Sharma (July 5, 2023). "South Korea reveals damning findings after first-ever capture of North Korean satellite". The Independent. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  13. ^ Thomas Guien (May 31, 2023). "Panique à Séoul, débris en mer... ce que l'on sait du lancement d'un satellite espion par la Corée du Nord". TF1 INFO (in French). Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  14. ^ AFP (May 30, 2023). "La Corée du Nord confirme le lancement d'un satellite militaire espion". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  15. ^ Thomas Romanacce (May 17, 2023). "Corée du Nord : quelles sont les capacités du satellite espion que Kim Jong-un s'apprête à lancer ?". Capital (in French). Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  16. ^ AFP (May 31, 2023). "La Corée du Nord annonce l'échec du lancement d'un satellite espion". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  17. ^ "KCNA Report on Accident in Second Launch of Military Reconnaissance Satellite". Korean Central News Agency. 24 August 2023. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  18. ^ "Defense chief says N. Korea could launch spy satellite in late Nov. with Russian aid". Yonhap. 3 November 2023. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  19. ^ "[2보] 북한 "정찰위성 성공적 발사…궤도에 정확히 진입"" [[2nd step] North Korea “Successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite… entered the orbit accurately”]. Yonhap News (in Korean). 21 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  20. ^ Colin Zwirko (June 1, 2023). "Photos show new North Korean space rocket likely used ballistic missile engine". NK News. Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  21. ^ Daniel Marín (June 2, 2023). "Lanzamiento fallido del primer cohete Chollima 1 norcoreano". (in Spanish). Retrieved June 6, 2023.
  22. ^ a b Josh Smith (June 1, 2023). "New North Korean space rocket features engine from ICBMs, analysts say". Reuters. Retrieved June 1, 2023.
  23. ^ Gunter Dirk Krebs. "Chollima-1". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 24 August 2023..