Iran Space Launch Vehicles
Iran ’s Indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle Program
© Charles P. Vick 2007 All Rights Reserved
February 01, 2007 / May 25, 2010/11-7-12, 3-29-2013/11-26-13
The opinions and evaluations stated here in are only the authors and cannot be construed to reflect those of any Government agency, company, institute or association. It is based on public information, circumstantial evidence, informed speculation, declassified U.S. intelligence community documents, official Iranian and North Korean government documents and histories, oral histories, interviews and reverse engineering analysis. As with all data regarding the Iranian and North Korean strategic space and ballistic missile programs, this analysis is subject to revision--and represents a work in progress.
The Long Overdue Iran ’s Indigenous Satellite, Launch Vehicle Program
On January 1, 2007 when Alaoddin Boroujerdi, member of parliament, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security & Foreign Policy Commission stated in a speech before the religious school Majlis session for the group of students and clerics in the holy city of Qom, Iran quoting from the FARS News Agency source of the report that “A satellite rocket recently made (manufactured) by Iranian scientists will soon have liftoff”. (9) This was the first news about the Iranian indigenous launch vehicle and satellite heard from the Iranian since late in 2005 and early 2006. The launch at the time was expected to be in March 2006. Then on January 2, 2007 he strongly denied the report attributed to him in discussions with reporters. This is a plausible deniability statement got yaw thanks to the semi free press of Iran . Work on the launch infrastructure had started before 2002 based on “Google Earth” imagery.
Iran's IRIS launch Vehicle Variation Heritage
The Taep’o-dong-1 Iranian Satellite Launch Vehicle Heritage
Iran's Developing large Solid Propellant Conceptual Launch Vehicle Program
Iran had stated it was going to attempt to launch its own satellite with its own home grown booster in March 2006 but this was clearly delayed into 2007 - 2008. Iran has the 20 kg. (44 lb.) Safir-313 (Emissary) satellite in line for these spaceflights but whether it will fly on a test flight of the improved and reworked compacted Taep’o-dong-1 , “Safir” in 2007 is uncertain. The Mesbah 60 kilogram, 50 centimeter cubical technology satellite laboratory model apparently renamed “Omid” [Hope] was improved for launch by July 2005 satellite but has apparently not been launch as of this writing.
Iran continues to state they have no need to develop a so called Shahab-4 class missile with a range of 2,000 – 3,000 - 4,000 kilometers that would threaten Europe . Europe had begged the Iranians not to deploy the Shahab-4. The Iranians then deployed it with the two separate programs having replaced the original Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1 program launch vehicle with the successful flights of the Shahab-3B on August 11, 2004 and by the No-dong-B on January 17, 2006 . The No-dong-B had in fact been introduced into the North Korean inventory in 2003-2004 which was the precursor to the replacement Taep’o-dong-2C/3 design utilizing it airframe and propulsion design technology a much higher performance system over the pervious designs. One would think that with the less effective Taep’o-dong-1 design relegated to uselessness by the greater performance strategic and future satellite launch vehicle programs would have totally disappeared. That may be so but the only launch vehicle available for Iran today is the reworked up-rated compacted Taep’o-dong-1 , “Safir” design to launch a less than 50 kilogram satellite into earth orbit since the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 is not nearly as ready as they would like it to be. The bottom line is that the propulsion system totally changed for the North Koreans and Iranians with the introduction of the No-dong-B, 3,218 - 4,000 kilometer range IRBM development completion and deployment directly impacting the Shahab-4, 5, 6 programs back during the years 1998-2000. So, Yes Iran did redirect its launch vehicle development where the Shahab-4, 5 & 6 are concerned but continued its smaller satellite launch vehicle program but North Korea had also redirected its strategic and satellite launch vehicle program eliminating the Taep’o-dong-1 from the inventory. North Korea had relegated the Taep’o-dong-1 to a technology development program.
The Iranian own satellite launcher and the Shahab-4 ballistic missile have become separate projects in the light of the recent introduction of the No-dong-B. Although this satellites design specifications fit the payload capacity of the improved Taep'o-dong- 1, “Safir” three stage class booster which in turn suggest it is the Shahab-4 that has now been replaced. Almost certainly the satellite launch vehicle will incorporate a third stage solid motor in addition to improving compacted Taep’o dong-1 design perhaps with first stage strap on solid motors. It is also expected to replace the core No-dong-A first stage with the improved but lengthened Shahab-3B -Ghadr/kavoshgar as the first stage. This once again brings into question whether Iran has wasted its time and resources with the old Shahab-4 design improved Taep’o-dong-1 class booster verses the more logical Taep’o-dong-2C/3 booster. The Shahab-4 program appears to have been shelved several years ago based on the suggested design basis but some uncertainty remains on this issue in spite of the obvious Shahab-3B and No-dong-B replacements because of this “Safir” satellite launch vehicle. There have also been some suggestions that the two stage Shahab-3D/IRIS launch vehicle would be reworked into a satellite launch vehicle in spite of it only having a sounding rocket capability. Those revisions would again have to be along the design of a revised Taep’o-dong-1 , “Safir” approach.
Whether Iran would develop the satellite launch vehicle believed to be similar to the Taep’o-dong-1 in design remained questionable even after new evidence has emerged showing the Iranian efforts. North Korea itself had produced only a limited number of these TD-1’s for ground testing, satellite launch and potential foreign sales as well as for strategic purposes. North Korea never deployed the Taep’o-dong-1 class as a strategic ballistic missile simply because it is not a mobile system. At least one TD-1 was apparently looked at by Pakistan and one was either studied or purchased by Iran . This was based on circumstantial evidence when it was observed over several weeks in the open being assembled, unassembled and reassembled vertically inside scaffolding outside Tehran , Iran near Shahroud. (See Shahab-4)
It can not emphasize enough that the Shahab-4 is in fact the No-dong-B and it is not the improved Taep’o-dong-1 with solid motors added and the improved Shahab-3B derived first stage. The three stage satellite launchers involved are either the improved compacted Taep’o-dong-1 , (“Safir”), No-dong-B variant or the less likely Taep’o-dong-2C/3 or the even less likely new solid propellant satellite launch vehicle. I do not expect a Shahab-3D satellite variant because it does not have the performance requirements. I would only expect them to fly the smaller satellite well before the TD-2C/3 class 170-250-550 kg payload. This is the case even though the launch infrastructure was apparently under construction before 2002. I expect the smaller satellite to be below 100 kilograms mass (Perhaps 55-85 kg.) based on more complete information on its performance.
Unha-1/Sahir-1B and Taep'o-dong-1
Though Taep'o-dong-1 did use the Scud-B propellants in its No-dong-A first stage it definitely used a Scud-ER variant as its second stage with step-throttle capability the so called DPRK design for the Unha-1 was and is the Iranian Safir-1, 1B class booster using Scud-C and Qiam-1 propellants as discussed below. The significance is that Iran has managed to transition to a more capable propellant combination than that used in the No-dong-A series.Both the Scud-C and the Qian-1 and Safir-1, 1B launch vehicles have successfully transitioned from the Scud-B propellants as noted from Soviet manuals which is TM-185 20% Gasoline, 80% Kerosene while its oxidizer is believed to be AK-27I 27% N2O4 + 73% HNO3 with Iodium inhibitor Nitrogen Tetroxide & Nitric Acid. The new propellant combination for the single stage Scud-C and Qiam-1 as they are known from Soviet Naval references manuals to be Unsymmetrical Dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) while its oxidizer is known to be a derivation of Inhibited Red Fuming or white fuming nitric Acid (IRFNA), (73% Inhibited Red Fuming nitric Acid (IRFNA) & 27% N204 = AK-27S).
North Korean/ Iranian Launch Vehicle Evolutionary Development Family.
Missile Systems Nomenclature
Liquid Propellant Launch Vehicles
|3. No-dong-A||=Shahab-3,3A &3B,||=Ghauri-II|
|=Shahab-3C, Ghadr / Kavoshgar||n/a|
|4. No-dong-B||=? Shahab-4||n/a|
|8. Taep’o-dong-2B?||=Simorgh-3 series||n/a|
|9. Taep’o-dong-2C/3||=Simorgh IRILV series, Shahab-6||n/a|
Solid Propellant Motor Launch Vehicles
|1. n/a||Ghadr-101/ Samen||=Shaheen-1?|
|2. n/a||Ghadr-110 / Sejjil||=Shaheen-2|
|3. n/a||Ghadr-110A /Ashura||=Shaheen-3?|
|4. n/a||Space L. V./ICBM||Space L. V./ICBM|
Solid Propellant launch vehicles
Iran’s now rapidly advancing solid propellant rocket motor ballistic missile program s is not believed to be advanced enough compared to its liquid fuel rocket engine program, launch vehicle program to provide much more than strap on solid motors or upper and last stage satellite orbit injection solid motor for launch vehicles. This is based on the examples of the Naze’at-6 (NP-110), Naze’at-10 (NP-110A), Zelzel-1 (Mushak-100), Zelzel-2 (Mushak-200), and Fateh-110/110A. This solid motor program is known to be years behind the liquid propellant program but it is making systematic deliberate and critical strides that will in the near future bring it up to IRBM, ICBM potential. Iran is believed during the year 2000 to have started the development of a new multi-stage solid propellant motor based Ghadr-101, and Ghadr-110, which may be an Iranian variant on the Shaheen-1, and Shaheen-II design of Pakistan . This advance is presumably thanks to the A. Q. Khan network, which in turn can thank China for its M-9, M-11 and M-18 technology. The heritage of these Iranian system can be traced back to Pakistan to China and their ultimate origin South Africa strategic ballistic missile development. The solid motors program for the new Ghadr-101, Ghadr-110 completed development in 2005 and only had to be integrated with available propulsion and guidance air frame warhead design and developed to be flight tested and deployed in 2008. The Ghadr-101 , and Ghadr-110 has already been flight tested in country during 2006 or may be very close to its operational introduction to eventually replace the Shahab-3A, 3B & 3C MRBM. Iran apparently moved quickly along to the Ghadr-110, 110A based on the recent speech by the deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency of the Pentagon Army Brig. General Patrick O’Reilly before the George C Marshall Institute. (10) Ghadr-110 is being deployed in Iran during 2008.
Iranian Satellite Launch Site Question
Several years ago the CIA stated that there was no evidence at the time that Iran had developed a space launch facility. That has now changed, but where and what form will it take was not known until recently. It is located in the north central part of the country in order to avoid flying over any local countries but allowing it to fly out over the Indian Ocean parallel and west of India ’s west coast. Flight testing has so far come out of the south eastern Semana and Shahroud (emamshahr) region flying south over Tabas tracking station region and for satellite launchings would be expected to fly out over the Indian ocean east of H umedan. Giving satellites a higher inclination polar orbit. Military launch test have also come from the Qom’s North East and North Western ranges, and Mushhad regions near part of the Dasht-e-kabir (Salt-Desert missile test range). By the end of September 2004 it was apparent that the improved reworked and compacted Taep’o-dong-1 class launch facility had perhaps been completed (although there was no imagery proof that that is the case then publicly available or identified). It would also require a somewhat similar Iranian variant infrastructure launch site development as seen for the North Korean, Taep’o-dong 1, 2 installation.
More recently a newly erected launch facility (Concrete slab) near Dasht-e-kabir (Salt-Desert missile test range), Iran has been suggested as the satellite launch site probably located on its northern range but again this was not confirmed until February 2008. Suggestions that it was located some where south of Damghan and Shahroud east of Torud near the salt desert edge to fly out over the Tabas tracking station region have not been confirmed. This tracking station has a near complete fan view of the range. The flight tests of the Shahab-3B during August through October 2004 from a flight test rolled out from a military base near Esfahan to a site along the towns of Na’in, Anarak Jandaq, Khvor, is possibly but would indicate a satellite launch ground track leading over the Tabas tracking station region flying across Afghanistan out near Kabul which again from imagery analysis has not been confirmed. This possibility of flying out over Afghanistan instead of the Indian Ocean is better for a lower inclination but the second stage would break up and impact down range over Afghanistan in such a scheme that is highly improbable today. This is improbable because the most optimal launch would be over the Indian ocean . Recently released Iranian imagery has in fact confirmed the near polar orbit nature of the planned satellites launch. In any case the satellite launch will apparently fly down the South West of Semnan, Kerman and Humedan corridor with perhaps first stage impact with in Iran and second stage break up over the Indian ocean as it is boosted to orbit.
Iran Space Launch Vehicles
|Launch Vehicles||Payload Kilograms||LEO payload Kilograms||GTO Payload Kilograms||Launch Site||Builders|
Shahab-3C, Ghadr, Kavoshgar
|Sounding Rocket , ASAT||N/A||Semnan|
|Shahab-3D / IRIS||Sounding Rocket, ASAT||TBD||TBD|
|Safir - IRILV||Satellite LV||50 - 65 - 100||Semnan|
|Taep'o-dong-2C/3 Simorgh-3/4/5/6||Satellite LV, ICBM||60-250-500-700||?||Semnan|
|Ghadr-101||ASAT, Sounding Rocket, MRBM|
|Ghadr-110, 110A/ Sejjil & Ashura||ASAT, Satellite LV, IRBM||50-100|
|Ghadr / Ashura - derived solid propellant space booster||100-170-300?||?||TBD|
1. Pirard, Theo, “ Iran in Space”, Spaceflight, Vol. 42, Aug. 2000, p. 319.
2. Iran approves funds for a domestic satellite, Space News, 1999.
3. Iran’s deadly missile potential, Kenneth Timmerman, The Washington Times, July 16, 1999, pp. A15.
4. Iran to launch three birds in two years, Space Business News, Vol. 17, No. 17 Aug. 18, 1999, pp. 7.
5. Iran plans joint satellite project with China, Tehran, voice of IRIFPN 00:20:30 GMT, January 25, 2000.
6. Tehran, Iran (Reuters) 4:43, May 6, 2000,
7. “ Russia prepared to build Iranian satellite, Space News, p. 2.
8. O’Sullivan, Arieh, “Key Iranian missile man dies mysteriously”, Jerusalem Post, 12, July, 2001, http://www.jpost.com:80/Editions/2001/07/12/News/News.30263.html
Additional Credits, References:
10. Originally published by Fars News Agency website, Tehran , in Persian 0845 4 Feb 08. (c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Newsfile. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved. Story from REDORBIT NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/04 09:00:44 CST
© RedOrbit 2005, Iran to Launch Omid Satellite in June 08, to Build Remote-Sensing Satellite, Text of report by Iranian conservative, privately = owned Fars News Agency website, Tehran February 4, 2008
The striking similarity of any Chinese, Pakistani and Iranian solid fuel rockets, Norbert Brügge, Germany
The North-Korean Nodong missile family, Norbert Brügge, Germany
Iran 's first space launch vehicle Safir IRILV, Norbert Brügge, Germany
Various Iranian video’s on the missile and space industry,
Iran Launches Space Programme, Fires Research Rocket video
Iran Launched a Rocket to Send First Satellite video
Iran Space Center video (Persian)
Iran Test Launches Kavoshgar-1 Space Rocket video
15. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=86111505392/4.08, News – English, News number:8611150539, 2008-02-04 – 15:36 , Iran Tests Satellite Rocket Launcher, Tehran (FNA) Semnan province.
16. http://en.rian.ru/world/20080204/98302047.html, Iran tests sounding rocket. Unveils first homemade satellite, 04/02/2008 .
17. http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=4163§ionid=351020101 , Iran ’s Kavoshgar I lifts off for space 2/4/2008
18. http://www.isna.ir/Main?NewsView.aspx?ID=News-1080968&Lang=E, Iran launches first space center 2/4/2008
19. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22995937/ Iran unveils space center, launches rocket by Ali Akbar Dareini Associated Press Tehran, Iran, 2/4/2008
20. http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/library/news/2008/space-080211-irna01.htm2 more rockets to be launched – Ahmadinejad, IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency, Tehran, Iran, Feb. 11, 2008
21. http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Ahmadinejad_Says_Iran_Will_Launch_Two More_... , Ahmadinejad Says Iran Will Launch Two More Satellites, Tehran , Iran (AFP) 2/11/2008
22. http://www.spacemart.com/reports/Iran_says_its_space_probe_sending_data_to_to_Earth_999... , Iran says its space probe sending data to earth, Tehran , Iran (AFP) 2/17/2008
23. John Locker - private correspondence February 2008
24. Nicholas Badenhorst – private correspondence February. March 2008
25. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3724048.ece, Spy photos reveal ‘secret launch site’ for Iran’s long-range missiles
26. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8510120284, Iran Manufactures Satellite Rockets . TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- An Iranian legislative official said that a satellite launching vehicle recently made by ...
english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8510120284 - 15k - Jan 2, 2007
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