On 5 December 1989, Iraq launched a 25 meter long rocket, the first stage of a three-stage "satellite launch system," weighing 48 tons and having a total propulsion force at liftoff of 70 tons. This vehicle consisted of five al-Husayn strapped together. (1) The vehicle had a SCUD-based liquid propulsion system. The initial stage consisted of four or five bundled, modified SCUD missiles.
The second stage consisted also of a SCUD missile, while the third stage had an SA-2 motor. Only the first stage was able to function, and it is possible that the second and third stages were dummies. The system, designated al-Abid, was said to be capable of putting satellites, which could be used for reconnaissance, communication and control, into low earth orbit.
Reports that the third stage of the missile reportedly orbited the earth several times before burning up on reentry into the earth's atmosphere turned out to be incorrect. (2) The official news agency also announced that Iraq had developed a SSM named Tammuz-1 with a 2,000 km range. (3) Nothing further has been reported on these systems, which seem to have been a one-of-a-kind technology experiment. The launching pad, located 230 km southwest of Baghdad, was discovered by the US on 06 December 1989.
1. "New Iraq booster has `limited ability to launch payloads,' U.S. says," Satellite Week, Vol. 11, No. 50, 18 Dec 89, p. 4.
2. Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. confirms Iraq has launched rocket that can carry satellites," The New York Times, 9 Dec 89.
3. INA, 9 Dec 89, FBIS-NES 12 Dec 89, p. 20.
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