Malfunctioning North Korea satellite could stay in orbit for years
North Korean military band members perform during a mass rally organized to celebrate the success of a rocket launch that sent a satellite into space at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP / Jon Chol Jin)
The Associated Press
Published Monday, December 17, 2012 11:29PM EST
TOKYO - Amateur astronomers tracking a North Korean satellite launched into space last week say that although it appears to be malfunctioning it could remain in orbit around the Earth for several years.
Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said Tuesday that data from trackers in South Africa and Britain show the brightness of the satellite has been fluctuating, which indicates it is tumbling as it orbits. That suggests a malfunction in the probe's stabilizers because it was designed to constantly point toward the Earth.
Even so, McDowell said the probe is continuing to complete orbits and will "be up there for years."
Since the cause of the malfunction remains unclear, he said it is still possible North Korea could determine how to fix it and regain control.