North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test demonstrates a number of things that are not good news for anyone hoping to prevent the country from becoming a global nuclear power. The missile, called the Hwasong-15, flew high enough (more than 4,400 kilometers, or 2,700 miles—more than 10 times the altitude of the International Space Station) and long enough (54 minutes) to demonstrate that it was capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the United States.
The Hwasong-15 is essentially equivalent to the US' Titan II. It is an immense, liquid-fueled missile, much larger than North Korea's Hwasong-14 ICBM. The 15 appears to use two engines on its first stage as well as an enlarged second stage, according to Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. While it only flew about 960 kilometers (600 miles) over the ground, David Wright, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, estimated the Hwasong-15 would have a range of 8,100 miles (13,000 kilometers) in normal flight.
"We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range, it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead," Wright said in a UCS blog post. "If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier."