The Taepodong-1 was a liquid fueled, intermediate-range ballistic missile. It has been seen publically in both two-stage and three stage configurations, although, it was only ever flight tested in a three stage configuration. The missile is capable of carrying a 750 kg payload with a range of 2,000 km in a two-stage configuration, and 5,000 km in a three-stage configuration. The U.S. Department of Defense holds the view that the Taepodong-1 was a technology demonstrator. The Taepodong-1 was first unveiled to the public in 1994.1

Taepodong-1 At a Glance

Originated From: North Korea
Possessed By: North Korea
Class: Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)
Basing: Fixed launch platform
Length: 25.5 m; 32 m
Diameter: 1.25 or 1.36 m/0.88 m
Launch Weight: 20,700 kg
Payload: 750 kg
Propulsion: Two-stage liquid propellant
Range: 2,000 (two-stage); 5,000 km (three-stage)
Status: Technology Demonstrator
In Service: 1990-1998

The Taepodong-1 is 1.25 meters in diameter and about 25.5 meters in a two-stage configuration and 32 meters in a three-stage configuration.2

The Taepodong-1 derives from the No Dong missile program. No Dong missile motors themselves are essentially scaled-up Scud motors which run on low energy kerosene fuel. It is believed that the Taepodong-1’s first stage consisted of one No Dong motor while the second had a single Scud motor and the third had a smaller unknown solid-fueled motor.3

With these propulsion systems it is estimated the Taepodong-1 could have carried a 750 kg payload 2,000 – 5,000 km based on how many stages it employed. With an estimated CEP of 4,000 m it is likely only a WMD payload would be useful. However, it is important to note that as of writing (June 2016) North Korea still has not successfully demonstrated a re-entry capability.

During the sole test of the Taepodong-1 in 1998, North Korea claims it put a satellite into an elliptical orbit, however this claim is disputed by the international community.4 Analysis points to the first two stages working properly, but the third stage failed after separation, causing it and the attached satellite to fall into the Pacific Ocean. It is possible the North Koreans only ever intended the Taepodong-1 to be a technology demonstrator before moving on to the Taepodong-2.

    1. Jim O’Halloran, Jane’s Weapons: Strategic: 2015-2016 (United Kingdom: Jane’s Information Group, 2015), 64.
    2. Ibid, 65.
    3. Ibid, 64.
    4. Michael Elleman, “North Korea Launches Another Rocket: Consequences and Options,” 38 North, February 10, 2016, http://38north.org/2016/02/melleman021016/