Iran’s Space Satellite Launch Infrastructure
© C. P. Vick 2008 All Rights Reserved
March 25, - April 12, 2008
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
“Safir” Launch Infrastructure Images
What few images have been released of the Iranian satellite launch infrastructure reveal a rather rudimentary launch infrastructure less developed than the North Korean satellite launch infrastructure that has been under construction since before 2002. It consist of a newly built bulldozed excavated burn hills surrounded circular concrete launch tarmac platform able to accommodate a (TEL) transporter erector launcher pad that has an opposite side erector service fueling gantry with six service levels. It is said to have been completed in eighteen months once it was decided to get the facility completed but preliminary evidence of it goes back at least to 2004 and apparently 2002. They are constructed southeast and east of the older Shahab-3 class launch sites.
Further each pad features four 90 degrees off set pipe constructed lighting lightning towers on the out edge of the concrete circular launch platform area. They have safety encircled ladders through out their length with platforms for flood lights and film camera, TV positions. Careful review of the imagery released show two variation of these towers strongly backing up the impression that this is a two launch pad facility with an already declared underground common launch control bunker. There are low hills or mountains in the background that only one site matches of the five sites total in the infrastructure range head. Several additional trucks used for fueling, high pressure gases and power are also a presumed part of the full operations facility support elements. There may also be additional command, communications control truck based systems. Additional paved access roads with identifiable off pad parking lots and underground tunneling is apparent from the available imagery. Equally there is one identifiable observation post behind but off set from the erector gantry on top of the burn line that may be for officials to observe the pre-launch preparation activities. There are no more permanent above or below ground propellant handling or high pressure gases facility identified at this time for the Safir launch site.
Launch Pad Details
Detailed study of the immediate launch pad and its (TEL) transportation erector launcher base for the Safire launch vehicle is apparently based on the Shahab-3B, 3C/Ghadr TEL system with very few modifications. The six service level small elevator and ladder access propellant loading gantry is a basic simple steel or aluminum scaffolding set on rear base hinges and hydraulically erected for service and fueling check out operations and lowered to clear the way for the launch of the Safire booster. The gantry tower only allows for the final checks, preparation of the satellite payload and the propellant loading of the second stage. There is no gantry crane for launch vehicle or payload assembly and the entire fully assembled booster with its encapsulated payload is transported to the launch site from the off site industrial infrastructure support ready facility MIK horizontal assembly building via the TEL system. The whole system may be flown in from the Tehran factory fully assembled on its erector transporter and then off loaded for a road vehicle ride to the launch site. Equally it could also be trucked in from Tehran, Iran and assembled on site in a MIK ready assembly building for the TEL transportation to the launch site.
The very temporary nature of this facilities expendable structure exemplifies its pathfinder intent. The entire small simplified nature of the facility gives the appearance of a temporary proof of principal pathfinder space booster program laying the foundation for the future larger more permanent satellite launch vehicles and its more permanent replacement infrastructure. This is suggested because of the planned larger mass more sophisticated satellite payloads based on the series of three “three year plans” fiscal planning discussed openly by the Iranian space officials. This does in fact portend the Iranian introduction of their variant on the North Korean, Taep’o-dong-2C/3-Shahab-5/6 liquid propellant three stage space booster perhaps based on the No-dong-B technology already in hand and flight tested but not acknowledged or displayed. Otherwise Iran may be considering the on going development of its rapidly developing solid propellant program as the basis of a satellite booster in a similar manner as being studied by Pakistan. In any case both developments could and would lead to potential IRBM/ICBM development masquerading as space boosters. The suggested fiscal planning pacing would seem to suggest that the rapidly developing solid propellant program is taking precedent over the very advanced liquid propellant program for obvious military purposes. What kind of design mix Iran will ultimately develop for it heavier satellite launch vehicle remains uncertain at this writing but two options seem to be competing for the national goal.
Iran’s Liquid Propellant Production Industry
Most of the liquid propellant combinations used by Iran’s liquid fueled ballistic missiles and space boosters are believed to be batch produced primarily in an isolated facility south west of Esfahan and south of Najafabad adjacent to the place named Madiseh. The Liquid propellant production facilities batch produced propellants are shipped via tanker trucks especially designed for their long term storage and delivery. It is assumed that these fuels are stored near the launch sites in more permanent industrial storage tanks designed to handle the highly toxic and corrosive TM-185/AK-217 propellants.
A. Google Earth imagery of Iran .
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
14. John Locker correspondence February 2008
15. Nicholas Badenhorst – correspondence February. March 2008
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