After weeks of speculation, North Korea's long-range rocket launch seems to have ended in a dramatic failure on Friday. According to South Korean officials, the rocket broke up and crashed into the sea a few minutes after its launch.
Officials from Japan also confirmed the mission had failed. Still, there has been no immediate indication of where the rocket fell.
The rocket was set to take flight over a sea separating the Korean peninsula. Initial reports speculated it was headed southwards, toward Australia, but the rocket never made it remotely close to its intended target.
The failed launch represents a blow to the prestige of North Korea. For weeks, the government had defied calls for restraint from the international community and moved forward with its launch plan.
The satellite was designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the North Korean state.
All along, the government said it wanted to use the rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit, but the U.S. long suspected it was actually designed to enhance the country's ability to design a ballistic missile that can deliver a a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the United States.
The Obama administration warned the rocket launch would violate North Korean commitments to halt all testing of ballistic missiles. It vowed to halt plans to ship emergency food aid to the impoverished country if the launch was carried out.
This was the country's second straight failure to get a satellite into orbit.
UPDATE: 9:43 PM North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command officials said in a statement that initial indications are that the first stage of the three-stage missile fell into the sea 102 miles west of Seoul. The other two stages were believed to have failed.
The White House has yet to formally react to the launch.
10:00 PM Great meme (via @Mark Kogan)