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“Safir-E Omid” (Emissary of Hope)

© By Charles P. Vick (All Rights Reserved)

Senior Technical Analyst


Disclaimer 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. It reflects the total open source analysis process and previous studies using the same information analysis process.


The Islamic Republic of Iran launched its first unmanned satellite into earth orbit late on 02 February 2, 2009 UTC. USSTRATCOM has issued numerous two line elements of two two objects with object-A usually the satellite in approximately a 245 X 378 km orbit at an inclination of about 55.51 deg, with a period of orbit of about 90.76 minutes. The rocket stage Object-B was apparently placed in a slightly higher orbit of 245 X 440 kilometers with a period close to 91.38 minutes at an inclination of 55.55 degrees.  

Several months behind their publicly announced space program planning schedule Iran tried for the third time to launch into earth orbit a Safir (Messenger or Ambassador or Emissary or Envoy) two stage booster with a light technology test bed satellite payload of 50-110 kilograms. See the following internet link on Iranian State space planning and scheduling issues. The booster is capable of placing a light satellite into a 250-500 km high orbit at a 55-64 degree inclination. They were attempting to try and perfect the basic technologies for satellite launching into Earth orbit with a modest but marginal multi stage booster staging technology demonstration design that will also help the ballistic missile development program goals.

Omid [Hope] “Light Weigh Satellite”

The ten year research and development project was fulfilled with the Omid [Hope] orbiting. It is a limited life technology development test repeater communications satellite package which has an estimated mass on the order of 50-100 kilograms. Called “Omid” (Hope) makes approximately six passes over Iran daily. Completion of the ten year research and development project was mandated to be completed before March 20, 2009. Initially it was expected to be placed in a high inclination orbit (perhaps an expected inclination of 62-64 degrees instead of the 55.51 degrees) with a 650 kilometer circular obit altitude not achieved with this launch. The rectangular box shaped satellites has no solar arrays only batteries with insulation both internally and externally visible (as like in the engineering models currently displayed in photographs and broadcast on national television). The internal black box instrumentation is design for gather atmospheric data and communications task from low Earth orbit with external transmitting receiving antennas. There are no obvious solar arrays on the outer shell indicating battery powered a short lifesatellite. It contains many black box instruments giving it a mass in the 50-100 kilogram range as expected. Sven Grahn of the Kettering group has recorded signals being transmitted on 465.0 MHz

Safire (Emissary) IRILV [Islamic Republic of Iran Launch Vehicle

The “Safir" (Emissary) IRILV [Islamic Republic of Iran Launch Vehicle] two stage satellite launch vehicle in its present configuration first stage is expected to impact about 300-350 km or so down range from the launch site within Iran existing missile test range. The first stage consist of a lengthened up-rated Shahab-3C/Ghadr toped with a same diameter second stage both of which use the same common highly toxic storable Scud-B propellants TM-185/AK-27I.

The two thrust chamber step throttled second stage is believed derived from the one altitude thrust chamber Scud-ER propulsion system design used by the North Koran Taepo-dong-1 launch vehicle. This short stocky Safir second stage uses a common bulkhead between the propellant tanks along with an open cycle single turbo pump to drive the propellants to the two main altitude thrust chambers and multiple attitude control thrusters that feature’s a centerline turbine exhaust thrust chamber. After flying out of Iran and over the south western corner pf Pakistan it will impact perhaps some 1,500-2,000 km down range from the launch site over the Arabian Sea with orbital insertion to take place over the Indian Ocean.

Safir Technology

The Safire space booster appears to be little more than a compacted redesigned better performance version of the North Korean Teap’o-dong-1 design. Its probable payload capacity of less than 50 - 100 kg strongly indication it is a proof of principal pathfinder development launch vehicle that will give Iran two and eventually three stage experience with liquid propellant launch vehicle technology. Iran has already demonstrated three stage operations with the solid propellant Ghadr-110/Ashura program 2,000km range designed now being deployed to replace the liquid propellant Shahab-3B, 3C/Ghadr now being produced at a rate of 75 a year as it is already deployed. The Shahab-3B, 3C/Ghadr-1 design has a 2,000 km range performance. A variation on the Shahab-3C/Ghadr-1 called the Kavoshgar-1 was the sounding rocket successfully launched February 4, 2008. All of these systems owe their heritage to the Scud based technologies and the follow on No-dong-A and Taep’o-dong-1 launch vehicles of North Korea.

Engineering Model Estimated Performance

The Safir launch vehicle weighing in at over 26 metric tonnes with a length of about 22 meters and a diameter of 1.35 meters has about 10,000 parts in its design according to the Iranians aerospace organization. The first stage is assumed to have shut down somewhere in the 20-25 km distance down range at an estimated altitude of 22-28 miles with first stage impact 250-300 km down range. The first stage burn was perhaps less than 120 seconds. Shroud separation is presumable at 150 seconds in flight at greater than 100 km altitude [152 km’s (94.64 miles)]. Its second stage step throttle probably operated at a higher rating for maybe 50 seconds and then went to a lower setting where thrust equal mass roughly 65% thrust rating at first for 120-125 seconds. That is on the order of 290-300 seconds to orbit not including coast staging sequences times which is similar to that of Taep’o-dong-1’s, which took 293 seconds to achieve orbit. This tends to suggest that the Safir has and is indeed a highly redesigned improved compacted Taep’o-dong-1 design heritage. It is reasonably understood that the Iranians did indeed purchase a Taep’o-dong-1 class booster for engineering study but rejected using its failed design. The launch gee’s acceleration were indeed slower for liftoff on the order of 1.25-1.3 gee’s based on the launch video imagery. Both liquid propellant stages are assumed to be using the same Scud-B propellant combinations.

The TVC - thrust vectoring control - appears very limited in one axis before running into interference with surrounding existing hard and flexible piping and other apparatus equipment including throttle controls plus the apparent limited Soviet style attitude control thruster lines pipe roll control thrusters that are apparent in existing images. Unfortunately such a system offers very limited control of the second stage and probable contributed to the first two launch flight test failures. The lack of an apparent two axis gimbals mounted thrust chambers capability is reasonable apparent.

The Apparent Second Stage Stabilization Regime

We have to understand this two thrust chamber vernier type control from the old Soviet SLBM control mode. That is two thrust chambers set in one pitch axis control which also can and are utilized for yaw control through a roll maneuvers to correct the directional errors which means it is constantly doing this kind of maneuver to correct both yaw and pitch direction and if the thrust chambers are not programmed to work together and fight one another it literally does tear the vehicle apart and sends it wildly out of control. At any time in flight if things are not right at payload separation or during or near the end of the second stage burn it can with an inadequate active attitude control totally loose it. The second stage may utilize two Scud-ER type SA-2 class step throttle altitude revised vacuum thrust chambers (or possibly two modified No-dong-B/Mirim vernier thrust chambers) with only one off set turbo-pump. The turbine exhaust and the two fixed thrust chambers straddle the stage center line in an off set configuration which means except for the active attitude control system there is no propulsion for propellant stabilization for start up without the solid motors doing the job at staging. This acts as three thrust chambers that is why it is configured as it is. This strongly suggests that the stage is not intended to carry out a long ascent coast before ignition of the main two altitude thrust chamber as is confirmed in the video simulations.


13. Press TV, Iran Prepares to launch satellite,, Aug. 23, 2008, 18:18:38 GMT. P. 1.

14. Reuters, Iran plans to launch telecoms satellite: President, , Aug. 23, 2008 , 1:03 pm EDT , pp. 1-2.

(15). Strategy Page, Iran And the Paper Submarine,, Aug 26, 2008 , pp. 1-2.

16. Iran Will Soon Launch 16-Engine Rocket - President,, (source BBC Monitoring Newsfile from FARS News Agency website, Tehran), September 25, 2006 p. 1.

17. Iran "fires second space rocket", , BBC, 15:50 GMT November 26, 2008, pp. 1-2.

18. Iran To Send Animals Into Space, Tehran, Iran RIA Novosti,, Dec 03, 2008, p.1.

19. Iran to Send Satellite into Orbit by March 20, Fars News Agency. Wed . January 28, 2009, p. 1. and

30. N. Korea Colud ExportICBM Capability To Iran, Middle East Newsline, Washington, Dec. 24, 2008 p.1

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