Imagery of Construction of New Launch Site in Iran
IHS Jane’s Analyses Satellite Imagery of Construction of New Launch Site in Iran
LONDON (5 March 2010) Through the use of commercial satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, IHS Jane’s has revealed that a new launch pad is being constructed at Iran’s Semnan space centre that could ultimately launch Tehran’s next-generation Simorgh rocket.
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Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 March 2010, reported that Iran unveiled the Simorgh space-launch vehicle (SLV) on 3 February, but as of March 2010 has not publicly revealed the location of the rocket’s launch complex. However, IHS Jane’s has observed a new site four kilometres northeast of Iran’s existing launch facility at Semnan on a WorldView-2 satellite image dated 6 February 2010. It contains a gantry tower, which is 13 metres wide, approximately18 – 20 metres tall and has a cliff-side flame bucket nearly as high as the tower itself. It appears midway towards completion. Although the tower is not yet tall enough to facilitate vertical assembly of the 27-metre Simorgh, the launch pad could easily accommodate Iran’s new rocket if the gantry were to be extended by an additional 10 metres.
In addition to this site, IHS Jane’s has observed another facility two and a half kilometers to the southwest; between the new site and the existing one. Although this facility is in early stages of construction, its heavily secured nature and restricted access indicate it is a primary element of the newly constructed complex.
Using satellite imagery from the Ikonos and WorldView-2 satellites taken on 11 February 2010, IHS Jane’s has identified the Simorgh and Safir-2 rockets displayed during the pro-revolution rallies in Tehran’s Azadi Square. The commercial satellite imagery is coded with geographic metadata that enables IHS Jane’s to garner several accurate measurements of the Simorgh.
The development of the Semnan facility and the Simorgh SLV both demonstrate the likelihood of collaboration with North Korea in Iran’s missile programme. The platforms seen on the new gantry tower resemble those seen on the gantry tower at North Korea’s new launch pad at Tongchang. A drainage pit 170 metres directly in front of the pad also mirrors one at Pyongyang’s new west-coast launch site. Similarly, the first stage of the Simorgh strongly resembles the North Korean Unha-2, with four clustered engines and nearly the same dimensions.
IHS Jane’s concludes that given these investments in its missile infrastructure, and despite the United States attempting to garner support for further sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme, Tehran appears determined to continue developing its missile and rocket capabilities in the foreseeable future.
Further analysis of the Simorgh 3 SLV and the new installation at Semnan can be viewed at jmr.janes.com and in the April edition of Jane's Missiles and Rockets .
IHS Jane’s is an IHS (NYSE: IHS) company.