Safir 1, 2, &1B Series of Iranian Space Boosters
A catastrophic accident occured 29 August 2019 during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. The Iranian rocket that was set to conduct a satellite launch seemingly exploded on the launch pad at Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran before its scheduled launch. The launch had been criticised by the US for being related to Iran's illicit nuke program. This failure marked the Islamic Republic's third failed launch attempt of 2019. Iranian state media did not acknowledge the incident at Iran's Semnan province immediately,
Satellite imagery shared exclusively with NPR shows that an Iranian rocket appears to have exploded on the launch pad Thursday. The imagery from the commercial company Planet and shared via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies shows smoke billowing from the pad. “Whatever happened there, it blew up and you’re looking at the smoldering remains of what used to be there,” said David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Schmerler told The Associated Press that the images of the space center suggested that the rocket could have exploded during ignition or possibly briefly lifted off before crashing back down on the pad. Water runoff from the pad, likely from trying to extinguish the blaze, could be seen along with a host of vehicles parked nearby. NPR first reported on the satellite images of the apparent failed launch at the space center, some 240 kilometers southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Donald Trump tweeted that "The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One." His tweet was illustrated with what appears to be a classified American reconnaisance satellite image - the resolution seems a bit too good to be commercial imagery, the annotation is quite professional, the image is in glorious black and white, rather the the colorful commercial imagery, and the image is entirely without overt provenance.
When asked if he had released classified information by sharing the photo on Twitter, he replied: “We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do. And we’ll see what happens.” He declined to say where the photo came from, however, telling reporters outside the White House, “You'll have to figure that one out yourself.”
The Revolutionary Guards on 24 February 2019 accused "enemies" of Iran of trying to sabotage the country's missiles so that they would "explode midair" but said the bid was foiled. "They tried as best as they could to sabotage a small part which we import so that our missiles would not reach their target and explode midair," Fars news agency reported, quoting the Guards' aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh. "But they couldn't do a damn thing because we had seen this coming from the start and had reinforced this sector," he added, accusing Iran's "enemies" of sabotage without naming any specific country. Iran reined in most of its nuclear program under a landmark 2015 deal with major powers in return for sanctions relief but has continued to develop its ballistic missile technology.
The New York Times (NYT) had reported that a secret US program to "sabotage Iran's missile's and rockets" had been in existence for years, and was being "accelerated" by the current administration. It chronicled efforts which began under US President George W Bush to insert faulty parts into Iran's missile-supply chains in an effort to undermine launches and aerospace development. It said there was no way to gauge the success of the US programme, but cited two recent Iranian rocket failures: one on January 15, and a second unacknowledged one on February 5, and a 67 percent failure rate over 11 years compared with a five percent orbital launch failure rate worldwide.
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 - adopted just after the nuclear deal - calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons". Tehran insists that its missile program is "purely defensive" and compliant with the resolution but it has developed medium-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching arch-foe Israel.
Safir-1B Improvement over the Safir-2 Used for Omid Launch
© By Charles P. Vick (All Rights Reserved)
Senior Technical Analyst
The Safir-2 (Ambassador-2) booster was used to launch Iran’s first satellite Omid (hope) on February 2, 2009. Its payload capacity has been superseded by the Safir-1B (Ambassador-1B) booster with its 50 kilogram payload capacity with an elliptical orbit of 330 to 450 kilometers. It post boost payload maneuvering capability allows it to circularize payloads at 450 kilometers.
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 varient 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 signifience 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 Dimethylhydrazine (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).
Previous Reporting From 2009-2010.
Safir Block-II Class Space Booster
It also revealed indirectly on June 8, 2010 that Safir Block-2 with three stages will fly in 2011. While the Simorgh-3 IRILV Booster is expected to fly in 2012 with a height of 27 meters using at least two or three stages with a total launch mass of 85 tonnes on a launch thrust of 143 tonnes to placing a 60 kilogram satellite into a 500 kilometer orbit. Only the Safir-1B booster without strap-ons has appeared so far reflecting some performance improvements over the Safir-2 previous booster design.
Safir-1, 2 Iranian Launch Vehicle
It had been suggested that Iran was in the final stages of preparing the Safir two stage booster to launch the 60-63.5 kilogram (132-140 Pound) cube shaped Mesbah-2 [Lantern] satellite from the Semnan Range south east of Semnan Iran. Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Reza Taqipour, stated that "the semi-domestic telecommunications satellite is ready for launch." He went on to state that "The Mesbah satellite had successfully completed pre-launch tests and is now ready for take-off." For further information on the Mesbah satellite see: http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/world/iran/multi.htm
It may also be possible that Iran is moving to and augmented version of the Safir-2 Block-II Class space booster with possible solid motor strap-ones boosters and a solid motor third stage that was suggested would appear in 2010.
Iran is ahead in some respect to North Korea missile technology wise especially in Solid Propellant technology. Iran has not fully taken on the more difficult Unha-2/Taep'o-dong-2 booster testing leaving it to North Korea to perfect with their cooperation. This is even though they have the propulsion systems for that launch vehicle in hand. Iran's solid propellant programs as well as the Shahab-6/ Unha-2/Taep'o-dong-2 program are all delayed by technological issues.
I need to thank John Locker of the UK for providing the heads up on the Iranian TV programming activities as well as Nicholas Badenhorst of SA for the heads up on the press notification on the pending launch.
1. Iranian Scientists Brace for Another Spaceshot, IG Moderator, Iran Defense.net, Oct 12, 2009, p. 1-2,
2. Tehran Times, Iranian Scientists Brace for another Spaceshot, Oct. 13, 2009, P. 1-2.
3. By Nasser Karimi, Iran turns to Italy to launch satellite, AP, Tehran Iran, Nov. 11, 2009, p.1-2
4. Italian company says no launch for Iran satellite, AP, Rome, Nov 12, 2009, p.1.
5. By Ali Akbar Dareini, Iran to launch satellite on its own by late 2011, AP, Tehran, Iran, Nov. 20-2009, p. 1-2
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