MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has four to five hours from the time of North Korea’s rocket launch to the time the second stage booster rocket will fall into Philippine territory.
Maximo Sacro, a founding member of the Philippine Astronomical Society, said in a press conference that the most crucial information was when the rocket will actually be launched.
“If we know the exact time of launch, we can estimate when the second stage will fall down in our territory,” Sacro said.
According to their calculations, the 15-meter long first stage booster will jettison after about four minutes of thrusting the rocket up into the atmosphere, Sacro said.
The first stage will fall into the sea at the eastern part of China after about an hour of free falling, he added.
The eight-meter long second stage booster will then fire up and continue to thrust the rocket for about another four minutes before it will jettison from the main rocket, Sacro said.
It will take about four to five hours before the second stage is expected to fall somewhere within the 590 square kilometer area in the Pacific Ocean east of Northern Luzon.
Sacro believes that the second stage booster rocket, which is the length of approximately two cars, could fall in one piece because it does not have enough altitude to disintegrate as it falls through the atmosphere.
“The way I look at it, because it is still low it will not disintegrate into many small pieces,” Sacro said.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Benito Ramos said they have received information that the second stage booster has the capability to self-destruct.
If that was the case, it could become many fragments that would fall over a wide area, Ramos said. He added they have no idea how big or small the fragments could be because they do not know the tensile strength of the booster.
Ramos said they will receive information regarding the time of launch from the Philippines’ defense attaches in South Korea and Japan as well as the embassies from those countries.
The Philippines was also being provided information from American sources, who have advanced satellite surveillance capabilities, Ramos said.
North Korea had previously said that its launch will be sometime from six to 11 in the morning. Ramos said that if North Korea decides to launch the rocket at 11 in the morning, that means the second stage will fall into Philippine Territory sometime in the afternoon.
The no-fly, no-sail, and no-fishing policy will be extended from 12 noon up to the afternoon to ensure that the debris will not pose a risk to people, Ramos said.
Airlines were prepared to reroute should the no-fly policy extend into the afternoon, Ramos said.