"Ghaem", IRISLV-X-Iran’s New Solid Propellant Space Booster
In a satellite image by Planet Labs Inc., a support vehicle stands parked alongside a massive white gantry that typically houses a rocket on the launch pad as activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan province, Iran, 11 December 2022. Iran appeared to be preparing for a space launch as negotiations continued in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Iran said it launched a rocket with a satellite carrier bearing three devices into space, without saying whether any of the objects had entered Earth’s orbit.
Iranian state media has offered a list of upcoming planned satellite launches in the works for the Islamic Republic’s civilian space program, which has been beset by a series of failed launches. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on 05 December 2021 published an article saying its space program had four satellites ready for launch. It described one, the low-orbit imaging satellite Zafar 2, as being “under the final phase of preparation.” Zafar, which means “victory” in Farsi, weighs some 113 kilograms (250 pounds).
"Iran says it has conducted new missile tests related to heavy-duty solid-fuel engines, as well as the use of composite materials in the missile hull," Farhikhtegan reported 13 January 2022. This news was first announced by Sardar Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the IRGC air force commander. IRNA initially reported the rocket had been launched into space, but later removed the reference in its story without explanation. Also, footage that was later released showed the rocket engine going through a static ground test.
Revolutionary Guard tested an engine for a solid-fuel satellite carrier rocket, the country’s state-run IRNA news agency reported 15 January 2022. The report quoted Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard’s aerospace unit, as saying the test was successful. He said it marked the first time Iran used a solid-fuel rocket rather than a liquid-fuel one. He said Iran will produce lighter rocket engines in further space projects. According to the general, the satellite carrier was made of a composite material instead of metal — something he claimed was “cost-efficient.” Hajizadeh spoke to a group of clerics in the city of Qom, the seat of seminaries in Iran.
Solid fuel rocket engines have general technical dimensions that can make them more suitable for military use than liquid fuel engines. Liquid-fuel missiles have some major problems that make them difficult to use in the military. Due to the need for continuous homogenization of liquid fuel as well as its corrosive nature, it can not be fired quickly, because quality control fuel, as well as not damaging the rocket tank, are stored separately in special tanks. On the other hand, solid fuel rockets do not have the problems of liquid fuel and can be kept inside the rocket tank at any time without special inspections and fuel extraction. Hence, solid-fuel missiles are capable of being deployed in long-term military patrols and rapid firing
Iran has been developing solid fuel rocket engines for at least two decades. The use of these engines in Iran is for military purposes and until 2020, they have been used only in missiles with a range of less than 2000 km, while at the same time, the Tehran space program had used only liquid fuel engines. The unveiling of the Iranian solid fuel heavy engine, which has been developed for IRGC satellites, was highly regarded by experts due to its multiple usability capabilities. Therefore, there are technical points about Iran's new solid fuel engine, which, in addition to general cases, include special cases related to this type of powerful engines. Despite all these special features, they are not limited to the solid fuel of the rocket, but also the use of composite materials in the rocket is important.
Iran's new solid-fuel engine could be the basis for building large numbers of anti-satellite missiles and deploying them on military alert. Iran has already found the power to intercept satellites in space, and in the future can combine this power with anti-satellite missiles to achieve effective space capabilitie.
10-31 through 11-20--2014
©By C. P. Vick, 2013-14
Senior Technical & Space Policy Analyst, Globalsecurity.org
Only in this Iranian Five Year Plan 2011-2015 has it become fairly certain that Iran is in the final stages of developing a new Ghaem, large solid propellant space booster IRISLV-X- now identified that can also serve to finish most of the development of two types of IRBMs and one type ICBM design. This Ghaem 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.
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 based 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 Ghaem 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 length. The present size of the pad and flame deflector gas jet trench would seem to imply a five stage solid propellant based space booster including the payload BUS stage with no strap-on boosters added.
New released data
Newly released data on the Ghaem booster as of November 2014 indicates the four or five stage booster consist of three or four stacked solid motors and as expected and a liquidpropellant based BUS last stage. The Marhale first stage is said to have a base diameter of about 3.5 meters while the upper third and or fourth stages are estimated to be about 2-2.2 meters in diameter. The launch weight of the in excess of 20 meter long booster is suggested to be in the 230-240 metric tons range. (7, 8, 9)
"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 theGhaem, IRISLV-X- Space booster along with the BUS fifth 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 last 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 third 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 Iranian solid propellant Ghaem 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.
7. Iran Military Forum, 11-10-2014, pp. 1-2 . http://www.iranmilitaryforum.net/missiles-and-rockets/iran%27s-ssms-%28surface-to-surface-missiles%29/1175/
8. Iran Military Forum, 11-13-2014, pp. 1-2, http://www.iranmilitaryforum.net/missiles-and-rockets/iran%27s-ssms-%28surface-to-surface-missiles%29/1200/
9. Iran Military Forum, 11-14-2014n pp. 1-2, http://www.iranmilitaryforum.net/space-technology-and-news/iran-ghaem-space-laucnh-vehicle/msg281117/?topicseen;PHPSESSID=17d7032e409ae1265244b91bf7ed64fb#msg281117
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