Iranian Second Space & Strategic Rocket Launch Center
IRISL-X-Iran’s New Solid Propellant Space Booster
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni Launch Infrastructure
10-31 through 11-21-2014
©By C. P. Vick, 2013 -14
Senior Technical & Space Policy Analyst, Globalsecurity.org
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.
Only in this Iranian Five Year Plan 2011-2015 has it become fairly certain that Iran is in the final stages of developing a newGhaem, large solid propellant space booster IRISLV-X- identified that can also serve to finish most of the development of two types of IRBMs and one type ICBM design. This space booster is real but the IRBM's and ICBM are unproven. It appears that Iran has chosen through its military backed theocracy leadership decision to go forward with this space booster effort as a top priority. That is the hardware manifestation of the then existing State Policy prior to 2013 as the new space booster launch infrastructure was given the go ahead.. (1) During August 2011 the first indication that Iran was in the process of actually developing a solid propellant space booster became known circumstantially from Iranian published sources. (1) This did not mean they had a new large solid propellant long range ballistic missile, space booster in hand but they had the technological ability to do so at any time and that they had decided to do so. Soon afterwards the manifestation of this in progress effort would display openly it dangerous aspects.
Wake Up Call from Iran
On Saturday November 12, 2011 the news broke out of Tehran, Iran of an undeniable highly visible explosion heard in Tehran of the Iranian solid propellant long range ballistic missile development disaster near the village of Bid Kaneh near the town of Malard in the Shahryar district some 40 kilometers west south west of Tehran, Iran. That devastating explosion killed 17 Revolutionary Guard soldiers and injured 16 others hospitalized. Among those killed was none less than senior Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Brigadier (Major) General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, the father of the Islamic Republics missile technology of Iran’s missile programs. This occurred while supervising the transport in a so called ammunition at the known very isolated missile development “Modarres” Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps facility. He served as a researcher at the Tehran University involved in industrial research in arms and missile space launcher development. (2, 3)
The base depot was utilized in the “production of experimental products” without Iran being specific as well as the storage of Shahab-3 missiles and other surface to surface ballistic missiles. Later in late August early September 2012 the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stated that the destroyed “center was conducting research on solid propellant for satellite carriers (launch vehicles) and not defensive (military) missiles.” Whether the installations were involved in the mixing and preparation for the casting of large solid motors is a logical question to consider. This explosion was apparently caused by an accident during the transport move out of the depot to another undisclosed test (firing?) site of the new larger missile solid motors, explosives that had undergone none destructive testing. Imagery makes it clear that the solid motor storage building entrance was the center of the initial detonation. This suggests the accident occurred during the transfer from the bunker testing storage area and the logistic equipment. Safety measures were apparently either ignored or not followed during the operation.
There are many lessons to be learned in dealing with solid motors as the mixing of its propellant and its proper casting of them in the solid motor casings as well as the elimination of static electricity while handling the motors both in testing as well as logistic and launch preparation. Learning how to ignite them store them and operate with them is a very precise black art with many pitfalls. All nations dealing with these lower specific impulse performing propellants have to learn these lessons or pay the price for not having done so. Obviously Iran in this case did endured that brutal lesson at great loss of human life.
Thus Iran is known to have blown up one solid propellant plant b ased on information coming from the Iranian, Press TV and Fars News Agency over the weekend on the evening of December 27 th, 2008 at one of the two infrastructures solid motor development production centers located 7 and 11 kilometers southwest of the Iranian city of Zarrin Shara in the Isfahan province in central Iran. At least eight production line personnel were the fatalities recovered from the site of the explosion as acknowledged by the facilities manager Majid Nasser. The entire region around the facility including the city of Zarrin Shahr was jolted by the high energy explosion from the explosives plant infrastructure. This again happened on the “Modarres” Garrison facility on November 12, 2011. Until recently Iran has endured many large solid motor test firing failures. Sabotage was rules out as the cause of the devastating explosion. (2, 3, 4)
The “Modarres” Garrison facility so called ammunition dump located at 35 degrees 37 minutes 27.17 seconds north and 50 degrees 52 minutes 24.82 seconds east was more than half leveled or damaged. Just south of this defunct production site is a solid motor static test firing site with no less than 8 horizontal static test stands in a row among others in the area that clearly show the burn mark obstructions from their gas jet firings. It was subsequently cleared removing any thing of interest and essentially abandoned the remaining building structures left to the elements. Obviously this production site has been moved elsewhere.
Large Solid Motor Static Test Firing Successful
By June 2013 the hardware expectation displayed itself. After suffering repeated static test firing failures in the large solid motor propulsion R&D demonstration program it finally worked right. According to Bill Gertz, The Washington Free Beacon article of June 28, 2013, “U. S. Intelligence Agencies recently detected Iran conducting a static ground test of a large rocket motor that could be used for a future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to U. S officials” and “Iran may be technically capable of flight testing an Intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.” (5)The New Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni Space Launch Infrastructure
Based on the available published public imagery released by HIS Jane’s Defense Weekly on August 7, 2013 (6) the sites remain under construction leaving the final details uncertain in the fall of 2013 of this over 80% completed space launch facility. The base is located 40 kilometers southeast of Shahroud which has been under construction since the spring of 2010. Its location is approximately 36.2 degrees North and 55.33 degrees East. The site appears to contains only a few small liquid fueling storage facilities more associated with the BUS last stage and payload processing than for the overall solid propellant launch vehicle. What follows is a series of illustrations with more detailed explanations of the new launch center infrastructure of Shahroud, Zard AbIyeh, Iran.
This is Iran’s new remote isolated fenced off Shahroud, Zard AbIyeh Solid Propellant Launch Infrastructure still under construction development over the last few year. The soft site base is located 40 kilometers southeast of Shahroud which has been under construction since the spring summer of 2010. It is to serve both space booster development applications as well as a potential ICBM testing based on its core booster design. The pristine nature of the infrastructure layout has all the characteristics indicative of a dedicated solid propellant launch operation. The widely spread out facilities are design to separate various key launch infrastructure from destruction from potential accidents already experienced in the program development. The railroad based logistics equipment is apparently being connected to the existing Tehran to Mashad main line branch railroad track age out of Damghan west southwest of Shahroud. Construction of that connection is expected to be completed within a year. The use of railroad based logistic support is a strong indication of the heavy mass of the new larger solid motors being developed successfully after experiencing many failures prior to this year 2013 successes. The administrative support complex is located behind a mountain range with the Testing Support Assembly Complex, Launch Assembly Complex and Launch Complex widely dispersed on the other side of the mountain range. Based on the available published public imagery released by HIS Jane’s Defense Weekly on August 7, 2013 the sites remain under construction leaving the final details uncertain in the fall of 2013 of this over 80% completed presumed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni Space Launch Facility.
The Administrative and Support Complex remains under construction with three administrative main buildings near completion while other building support areas appear to be in the early stages of development. The connecting railroad, road development appears to be progressing towards the connection sites in the fall of 2013.
The double security safety fenced off Payload Testing Processing Support Complex is designed to support both payload processing as well as payload BUS and solid motor post boost packages. It appears to contain office, housing as well as explosives storage and other required support testing facilities for the payload assembly building to the lower right connected by railroad to the booster Horizontal Assembly Build in the fall of 2013. Various power lines and underground cable ways along with railroad and roads access ways are also visible.
The solid propellant booster Horizontal Assembly Building so called MIK is designed to handle the final assembly of the launch vehicle as well as the assembled encapsulated payload assembly before railroad car delivery to the launch facility infrastructure in the fall of 2013. Various power lines and underground cable ways along with railroad and roads access ways are also visible.
The new solid propellant Launch Complex nearing completion in the fall of 2013 is characterized by its wide rectangular 140 meters by 200 meter tarmac built of prefabricated concrete slabs on a built up earthen platform. The pad itself features a 125 meter unusually long open flame jet deflector trench. Various power lines and underground cable ways along with railroad and roads access ways are also visible. The launch infrastructure is surrounded by multiple security safety fences far from the pad tarmac. Within the security perimeter lies the apparent but ill-defined launch control blockhouse like structure with its pad connecting cable way. Many flood light groups around the tarmac edges are visible along with the two lighting towers and four lightning towers.
The "Estimated" design of the expected solid propellant Space Booster R & D test, operational launch site has a single off set from the tarmac center pad accessed by what appears to be a short rail based single tower gantry with folding half shell service levels. Based on the available imagery that tower is shorter than the swing arm service levels the height of which is in excess of 23 meters. The semi-mobile gantry tower does have a small lifting gantry crane for payload servicing only not booster assembly. The intended railroad based rollout erector transporter for the assembled booster and payload combination is expected to exceed 24 meter in height. The present size of the pad and flame deflector gas jet trench would seem to imply a relatively small five stage solid propellant based space booster including the payload BUS stage with no strap-on boosters added.
"ESTIMATE" One Space Booster Could Give Iran Three Strategic Ballistic MissilesTHIS SPACE BOOSTER HAS NOT BEEN SEEN OR DISPLAYED FULLY ASSEMBLED so this is an ESTIMATE based on what is known and open to analytical interpretations. If Iran wishes to also develop two IRBMs and an ICBM all they have to do is utilize the first three stages of the Ghaem, IRISLV-X- Space booster along with the BUS last stage to accomplish that task. To acquire an IRBM in two variations of this space booster design in a similar approach that the Soviet Union did they probably will utilizes a short version of the booster's first stage as the second stage and exchange the altitude nozzle for the sea level nozzle for the second stage operated as a first stage with the third and fourth and BUS fifth stage to create a IRBM from that same space booster. Alternatively like the Soviets did is to utilize the first and second stages of the booster with a BUS last stage for a longer range IRBM. That BUS stage presumable is based on a combination of solid propellant motors and cold gas and or liquid propellant thruster package design already in development. The range performance would have to be in the 10,000 - 12,000 kilometers to threaten the U. S. A. with a single 650 kilogram warhead of any kind.
This present soft site facility is not an ICBM base facility but clearly a space booster facility that could however serve as the bases for ICBM, R & D testing if Iran so chooses. Just developing this space booster essentially accomplished most of the job of developing an ICBM prototype. Iran may or may not use the same larger diameter first stage solid motor as its shorter second stage while the last stages would be smaller in diameter. Many of the critical elements of this space booster are in fact very well along in development testing heading to flight test once the launch infrastructure is completed by 2015 as predicted in the DoD annual reports to Congress
Based on the Iranian Five Year Plan(FYP) process the actual flight testing of the space booster should perhaps not be expected until the middle period of the next five year plan (FYP) 2016-2020 with operation deployment within the follow on ten year “forecast plans”2021-2025". At this time only the space booster is expected to appear and be flight tested but that will effectively accomplish all three task through a series of flight tests.
The new Ghaem, Iranian solid propellant space booster IRISLV-X- has apparently evolved from the successful Semen MRBM, Sejjil IRBM and not so successful longer range Ashura IRBM advanced design solid propellant boosters. All though Ashura was not fully developed because the technology involved had not matured enough it however laid the foundation for the more advanced larger solid propellant space booster now nearing development flight testing in the coming years.
Comparisons of the Iranian solid propellant ballistic missile,and "Estimated" space booster developments
Iran’s solid propellant ballistic missile and "Estimated" space booster developments
1. Iran Commander: We Have Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, By Reza Khalili, American Think, Aug. 4, 2011, pp. 1-2.
"In other words," the editorial concludes, "the fact that Iran currently possesses technology that can put satellites into orbit means that Iran has also obtained intercontinental ballistic missiles with solid fuel capabilities and that at any moment, this technology can be put to military use."
2. Iran: Senior Revolutionary Guard commander among those killed in blast, The Associated Press, Haaretz.com Nov. 13, 2011, pp.1-2.
3. Confusion in Iran media over general’s blast death, AFP Staff Write, Tehran Iran, Nov. 19, 2011, p. 1-2
4. Explosion Seen As Big Setback To Iran Missiles, by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, The New York Times, December 5, 2011, pp. 1-9.
5. Gertz, Bill, Iran ICBM Advances, The Washington Free Beacon, June 28, 2013, pp. 1-3.
6. Second Iranian Space-Launch Center Revealed, by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., JDW correspondent and Jeremy Binnie JDW East/Africa Editor, HIS Jane’s Defense Weekly, August 7, 2013 based on numerous published press reports.
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