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IHS Analysis - Iran's Satellite Programme

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IHS has determined that Iran's new launch tower at Semnan will be able to facilitate the launch of a rocket even larger than those reportedly under development.

IHS has determined that Iran's new launch tower at Semnan will be able to facilitate the launch of a rocket even larger than those reportedly under development.

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  • 1. IHS Jane’sAnalysis: Iran’s satellite launchprogrammeSeptember 2012 ihs.comIntroduction KEY POINTSIran’s space programme is ambitious. The country has Despite the rapid construction of a new space centre that will bespent some USD500 million since 2010 on its new space capable of handling large new liquid-fuelled rockets, analysis bycentre which, in addition to launching its current rockets, is IHS suggests that Iran’s space programme has had several delaysbeing prepared to launch larger rockets currently under and authorities are covering up launch failures.development. Since February 2011, Iran has launched five The Iranian plan may be to provide commercial space launchrockets at an average of one almost every 16 weeks, and services, and, using satellite imagery over the construction athas plans for more. Semnan, IHS has determined that the new launch tower will be able to facilitate the launch of a rocket even larger than thoseIHS was the first to report on the new construction at the reportedly under development.Khomeini Space Centre near Semnan in the north of thecountry in 2010, and despite only starting some two years Although designated for space launch, the rockets themselves use components from ballistic missiles, suggesting that the militaryago, the aggressive pace of construction of Iran’s first implications of the project could add to tensions within the region.space launch centre has meant that “some 80% of theactual construction” had already been completed by June regime, which is underscored by its naming after the2012, according to Iranian Minister of Defence Ahmad country’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.Vahidi. This was confirmed by commercial satelliteimagery obtained and analysed by IHS. The scale and At the current rate of construction, it is believed that Iranspeed of construction attest to the site’s importance to the will have the capability to launch the new Simorgh satellite© 2012 IHS 1 ihs.com
  • 2. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmelaunch vehicle (SLV) by mid-2013, although in reality the A 110B is a road-mobile, solid propellant, single warheadprogramme has not progressed as smoothly as the Iranian missile. It is 8.86m long, 0.61m in diameter, has a range ofauthorities have portrayed. over 300 km, and can carry a payload of 500 kg.Launch record Kavoshgar-4 was launched on 15 March 2011, carrying a dummy the same weight and size as the live monkey thatConsidering Iran’s first indigenous space attempt was only would launch on Kavoshgar-5. The launch appeared to bemade in 2008, even its partially successful space successful, and Iran indeed claimed success; however, alaunches mark success for an emerging rocket capability. recent image of what is suspected to be the recoveredIts launch record is all the more impressive when Kavoshgar-4 capsule has been released and appears tocompared to other emerging programmes like North show significant damage. The successful recovery of aKorea’s, which has only had the means to carry out four capsule is critical if an animal or future astronaut is totests in 14 years, all of which have failed during launch. survive; the damage sustained challenges claims that theDespite this relative success, preceding missions should mission was a full success.only be described as partial successes at best. However, Kavoshgar-5 was more ambitious and was to carry a liveof the four acknowledged launches, Iran claims one primate. Initially scheduled for some time in Septembersuccess and one failure for the two Kavoshgar research 2011, further announcements narrowed the launch date torockets, and two successful launches for its satellites on between 7-9 September. After these dates passed, nothe Safir-1B SLV. Iran has not acknowledged the fifth – further announcements were made for almost a monththe launch of the Safir and its Fajr satellite payload – when, on 12 October 2011, Deputy Minister of Scienceinsisting its May launch has been delayed. IHS has Mehdinejad-Norui stated: “The launch was not publicised,attained commercially available imagery indicating that the as all of its anticipated objectives were not accomplishedlaunch failed. and Iran indefinitely postponed plans to send a livePutting an astronaut into space within the next decade is a monkey into space.” The report was tantamount to angoal often stated by the Iranian authorities. To this end, admission of failure. Several announcements in May 2012Iran has launched two rockets into space with payloads indicated that the Iranian authorities aimed to try again inthat carried simulated or live primates, which were August or September 2012, although at the time of writingplanned to be recovered after re-entry. The Kavoshgar-4 no further launches have occurred.and -5 research rockets used a Fateh-110 military shortrange ballistic missile (SRBM) as their booster. The Fateh-© 2012 IHS 2 ihs.com
  • 3. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmeSatellite launches assembly was from a Sony digital commercial camera available at camera stores.Since 2011, Iran has officially launched the Safir-1B SLVtwice, with evidence of a third launch. The first satellite, There are many reasons for this poor quality. CreatingRasad, was launched on 16 June 2011. Although it wholly indigenous high-resolution imaging satellitesachieved orbit, this was lower than planned, limiting its requires intensive technological specialisation rivalling thatlife-span from two months to just three weeks. Despite of even rocketry and nuclear science in terms of difficultyclaims that the satellite returned images, none have been and proprietary access. High-resolution imagery requiresreleased, suggesting that the satellite may have failed. a satellite payload too heavy for Iran’s current rocket arsenal to lift, or a highly advanced lighter satellite whoseThe second satellite, Navid, was also on an imagery development far exceeds the technological capability of allmission. It was launched on 3 February 2012 and but a handful of countries.achieved an orbit close to that planned, and decayednaturally on 1 April after nearly two months in orbit. Like The third Safir-1B launch attempt carried the Fajr imageryRasad, the Iranians released statements early on in the reconnaissance satellite, on or about 23 May 2012.Navid mission saying that the satellite had taken images, Despite statements issued by the Iranian authoritiesbut again, none were released. While the lack of images suggesting that the launch was postponed, IHS analysis ofsuggests that both satellites failed once in orbit, another open source and commercial satellite imagery indicatesreason for not releasing imagery could be embarrassingly that the launch did in fact take place, suggesting thepoor picture quality. The day after the Rasad launch, the authorities fabricated a story to cover up a launch failure.Head of Iran’s Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli, publicly A comparison of imagery of the Safir SLV launch site onacknowledged: “The cameras onboard past and planned different dates shows that a launch coinciding with thesatellites are too poor to give useful images...Even the announced Fajr mission actually occurred. The Safir SLVAmir Kabir, Navid, and Zafar that Iran is planning to orbit is the only rocket known to use this pad and, in general,in the next few years have cameras that take pictures of the Iranians do not clean their launch pads until a fewlow resolution and limited utility.” weeks before the next launch. This means that blast scars remain for considerable periods of time, providing anIt is known from statements by Iranian officials that at least excellent indicator of launch activity.one camera on a future satellite will provide photos only1/800th of the quality of satellite photos that are already The pad on 18 May was clean, painted a light blue withavailable commercially. One source, utilising published three dark blue Iranian Space Agency logos. On the 21material, reported that a camera lens seen during June, some 30 days after the expected launch date, there© 2012 IHS 3 ihs.com
  • 4. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmeare clear blast marks appearing in the centre of the pad, would most likely be a copy of the one that appears toindicating that the Fajr launch had occurred sometime have failed in May 2012, with the delay between launchesbetween these dates, contradicting Iranian reports that the needed to establish why the initial attempt failed andlaunch had been postponed. The appearance of the pad prepare and ready another Safir-1B SLV and Fajr satellitehad still not changed in imagery from 14 August 2012. for launch.At the Safir launch site, the blast scars appear as ‘V’ In addition, the Kavoshgar-5 research rocket (again,shaped, caused by the curved blast splitter under the believed to be a copy of the one that failed in Septemberrocket, which directs the exhaust gas away from the 2011) was scheduled for launch in late August ortransporter erector launcher (TEL) and umbilical tower. September 2012. These launches would be the secondThe same signature has been present after the launches attempts for both missions. Regardless of Iran’s individualof the three previous Safir satellite launches: Omid launch successes or failures, the pace and scale of these(February 2009), Rasad (June 2011) and Navid (February efforts have all been underpinned by an unrelenting drive2012). No imagery is available for the first two launches in to advance the country’s rocket capabilities, as shown byFebruary 2007 and August 2008. the frequency of such high-profile launches and continued aggressive construction at their pre-eminent space launchA history of the Fajr satellite centre.Date Description7 Feb 11 Mock-up displayed in Tehran at Aerospace Technology Day Director of the Iran Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli, announces that Fajr will2 May 12 launch within a month Nuclear fears Head of Iran’s Aerospatial Industries, Mehdi Farahi, announces launch12 May 12 Tensions remain high in the region, not least because of date of 23 May; confirmed by Minister of Defence Ahmad Vahidi18 May 12 Satellite imagery shows a clear launch pad, free from blast scarring23 May 12 Day of launch; no news Western and Israeli fears about a secret Iranian nuclear29 May 12 Hamid Fazeli announces that launch had been delayed and would take weapons programme. Warheads are not the only concern, place within 10 months21 Jun 12 Satellite imagery shows a launch pad with blast scarring, suggesting as a nuclear weapon would still need to be mounted onto launch had taken place Fathollah Karami, member of Aerospace Technology Development a delivery system. Given Iran’s current arsenal, the most6 Jul 12 Committee, states that delay was caused by micro-motors used for orbit changing likely candidate would be the Shahab-3 or Sejil-2 ballistic12 Jul 12 Hamid Fazeli announces that Fajr is undergoing final tests missiles, although given their relatively small size there1 Aug 12 Hamid Fazeli states that Fajr would launch in 2-3 months would be a number of problems mounting a large, basicThe most likely explanation for the official silence is that nuclear weapon.the Fajr failed to achieve orbit, although on 1 August 2012,Hamid Fazeli, Head of the Iranian Space Agency, stated Considering the inherent difficulties of miniaturising athat it would be launched in “two to three months”. This nuclear device, any developments that may allow Iran to© 2012 IHS 4 ihs.com
  • 5. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmelaunch bigger rockets or heavier payloads are bound to large investment. Previously, Russia and the Europeancause international concern. Analysis of the infrastructure Space Agency (ESA) have both managed to generatebeing built at Semnan confirms that Iran is preparing for successful revenue streams through space launches.larger rockets than the two-stage Simorgh SLV that was However, the Shabab-3 missile is technically the firstpreviously due to be hosted by the site. The overlapping stage of the two-stage Safir SLV, and it is unlikely that thenature of the technologies involved in an SLV and an prospect of the technology being used to launch an SLVintercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) mean that being applied to longer-range ballistic weapons has beenconverting successful space launches into a weapons lost on Iran’s neighbours.capability, to gain greater influence inside and outside theregion, is a real possibility. Evolving siteIn an effort to allay these fears, Minister of Defence Vahidi IHS first reported on the presence of the original spacedeclared through the Islamic Republic News Agency on 2 pad at Semnan in 2008, and the massive constructionJune 2012: “[The] Iranian government aspires to develop effort in 2010. Subsequent efforts mean that today thethe centre into a point of reference for the Islamic world.” largest feature of the Khomeini Space Launch Centre is a new launch complex, which consists of three separate Given the exposure of the site, and the time-consuming parts: the launch pad, the control bunker and a propellantprocesses of assembling and fuelling large liquid rockets, storage area – all connected by over 1.2 km of buriedSemnan is the likely site for testing these rockets but is concrete conduits. In addition to the launch complex thereunlikely to be an operational missile base. There has been is a liquid-rocket engine test facility and a horizontalno mention of launching the military missiles for which the assembly/check-out building, as well as other smalleroriginal Semnan test range was developed. Launching buildings.satellites for domestic use is probably the business modelthat the Iranian government is hoping will pay for such a The launch pad was under construction by October 2010Iranian space launches since 2011Date Rocket Type Payload Mission Comment Capsule with Research Partial success; successful launch but photo of damaged capsule, probablt Kavoshgar-4, has2 Feb 11 Kavoshgar-4 simulated Capsule test rocket been released monkey16 Jun 11 Safir-1B SLV Rasad satellite Imagery Partial success; lower orbit of satellite achieved, no imagery released Research Capsule with live Capsule return andSep 11 Kavoshgar-5 Failed recovery after successful launch. Failure confirmed by officials. rocket primate primate survival3 Feb 12 Safir-1B SLV Navid satellite Imagery Partial success; no imagery released23 May 12 Safir-1B SLV Fajr satellite Imagery Likely launch failure© 2012 IHS 5 ihs.com
  • 6. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmeand was still being worked on by August 2012. Notably, at type of the engine tested cannot be determined, althoughthe pad’s centre – where the launch stand has been IHS believes that it was a cluster of four Simorgh firstplaced – the two flame trenches neck down to a 5m width, stage engines, probably to check the integrity of the testthen flare out to their full 10m width at the edges of the stand.pad and continue to a total length of 40m. This suggeststhat the rocket that the pad was initially built to launch was IHS originally reported that this new launch facility atless than 5m in diameter, probably in the 4m to 4.5m Semnan would be constructed specifically for the Simorghrange (which is also the upper limit of the engine test rocket, but analysis of the launch pad shows that Iranianfacility). rocket ambitions exceed even this huge rocket. The two- stage Simorgh SLV will be 27m in length and 2.5m inThe seven-storey gantry tower is about 40m in height, diameter. This is larger than the 0.61m diameter of thealthough it has a roof that means the maximum height of a Fateh-110 engines used for the Kavoshgar-4/5, and thepotential future rocket may be a few metres less. The 5m Safir’s 22m length and 1.25m diameter.width of the flame trench limits the diameter of any newrocket to around 4.5m or less. This indicates that a new three-stage SLV is under development which will have a probable length of justWhile it is difficult to estimate the sizes of the tanks inside under 40m, and a diameter of between 3.5m to 4.5m. Allthe propellant storage area, its buildings are larger than of the satellites due for launch are planned for either thesimilar constructions at North Korea’s Sohae or Tonghae Safir or Simorgh SLVs, which suggests that it will be atsites. The larger size may suggest that Iran intends to least four to five years before the newer, larger rocket ishandle more frequent launches, which would be ready for its first launch.consistent with its commercial aspirations. Outside thelaunch complex, the test stand at the liquid-engine rockettest facility is Iran’s largest.The site is already in use, and imagery from 18 May 2012shows an engine test had recently taken place. Comparedwith images from 19 December 2011, the bottom of theflame trench has changed colour from a concrete grey,while the presence of a stream of black liquid running intoa drain and an apparent blast scar suggest the recent testmay not have been entirely successful. The size and fuel© 2012 IHS 6 ihs.com
  • 7. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmeConclusionIran’s launch record is impressive for a country that is still This analysis is abridged; the full analysis – includingdeveloping its rocket capability, particularly when satellite imagery analysis – was first published in IHScompared to countries embarking on similar programmes, Jane’s Intelligence Review in September 2012 and isalthough there is still room for improvement. A possible available within IHS Jane’s Military & Securityfailed rocket engine test was seen in early 2012, and Assessments Intelligence Centre.despite statements to the contrary, it is highly probablethat Iran attempted to launch the Fajr satellite payload ona Safir-1B SLV on 23 May 2012, but failed to achieveorbit. Yet after six days, and no mention of a failure in themedia, authorities concocted a story that the launch hadbeen postponed for up to 10 months. Tight media controlwas also seen after the failure of Kavoshgar-5.Iran’s drive to complete the Khomeini Space Centre ismatched by its ambitions for larger rockets, with the centrebeing geared towards hosting rockets with larger payloadsand longer ranges. These will help it project power andassert strategic dominance in the region, while once againspotlighting potential complementarity with the putativenuclear weapons programme.© 2012 IHS 7 ihs.com
  • 8. IHS Jane’s Analysis: Iran’s satellite launch programmeAbout IHS About IHS Defence & SecurityIHS (NYSE: IHS) is a leading source of information and With over 100 years of history as Jane’s, IHS is the mostinsight in pivotal areas that shape today’s business trusted and respected public source of defence andlandscape: energy, economics, geopolitical risk, security information in the world.sustainability and supply chain management. With a reputation built on products such as IHS FightingBusinesses and governments around the globe rely on the Ships and IHS All the World’s Aircraft, IHS deliverscomprehensive content, expert independent analysis and comprehensive, credible and reliable news, insight andflexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact analysis across all key defence and security subjectdecisions and develop strategies with speed and areas, and in support of critical military and securityconfidence. processes.IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a IHS defence and security products represent anpublicly traded company on the New York Stock invaluable open-source news, information and intelligenceExchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, asset for businesses, defence organisations and armedColorado, USA, IHS employs more than 6,000 people in forces.more than 30 countries around the world.ihs.com© 2012 IHS 8 ihs.com