[FPSPACE] Iran's space launch on Tuesday did not reach orbit

Peter Pesavento pjp961 at svol.net
Thu Apr 21 13:35:59 EDT 2016

Bill Gertz's reportage at the Washington (DC) Free Beacon newspaper (via
Matthew Aid's blog)




Iran Conducts Space Launch

April 21, 2016

Iran Conducts Space Launch

Bill Gertz


Washington Free Beacon


April 20, 2016


Iran this week conducted the first launch of a new rocket that the Pentagon
views as a key element of Tehran's effort to build long-range missiles.

The launch of the Simorgh space launch vehicle on Tuesday was judged by U.S.
intelligence agencies to be partly successful but did not reach orbit, said
defense officials familiar with reports of the test.

"It was either an unsuccessful launch, or a test of third stage" not meant
to place a satellite in orbit, said a U.S. defense official familiar with
reports of the test.

No other details of the test launch could be learned.

At the State Department, spokesman John Kirby said he could not confirm the
missile launch.

"Obviously we're watching this as best we can," Kirby said. "Certainly if
it's true and we're talking about a ballistic missile launch or the testing
of ballistic missile technologies, that's obviously of concern to us. It's
not consistent, as we said before, with the Security Council resolution."

The large liquid-fueled rocket has been under close surveillance by U.S.
satellites and other intelligence assets at a launch pad at Iran's Semnan
satellite launch center, located about 125 miles east of Tehran.

The Simorgh launch had been anticipated since March and comes amid growing
worries about Iran's development of long-range missiles.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said he is concerned about the latest Iranian
missile development.

"An Iranian Simorgh space launch vehicle test would be a provocation of the
highest order and shows Iran's true intentions," Cotton told the Washington
Free Beacon.


"The intelligence community has said publicly that this [space launch
vehicle] technology would aid an Iranian [intercontinental ballistic
missile] program. And the only reason one develops ICBMs is the delivery of
nuclear weapons," Cotton added.

The Simorgh is believed to be based on North Korean missile technology, used
extensively in Iran's medium-range Shahab-3 missiles. U.S. intelligence
agencies believe North Korea supplied Iran with design data, stage
separation technology, and booster equipment for the Simorgh and other

During negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. intelligence agencies
detected two shipments of large diameter rocket engines from North Korea to


The Simorgh also is assessed as having enough lift to carry a nuclear
warhead, a throw-weight greater than the 220-pound payload capacity claimed
by Iranian officials.

Senior U.S. military officials have voiced concerns about the Simorgh in
recent congressional testimony and other public statements.

Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told a House
hearing last week that Iran is continuing development of long-range

"Iran's continuing pursuit of long-range missile capabilities and ballistic
missile and space launch programs, in defiance of United Nations Security
Council resolutions, remains a serious concern," Gortney said in prepared

"Iran has successfully orbited satellites using a first-generation space
launch vehicle and announced plans to orbit a larger satellite using its
ICBM-class booster as early as this year. In light of these advances, we
assess Iran may be able to deploy an operational ICBM by 2020 if the regime
choses to do so."

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, deputy chief of staff for operations, told
reporters last month the Iranian space launcher is a "dual-use" system with
applications for missiles.

"The concerning part to me is that the rocket that they use, that launch
satellite, could . [have] a dual-use purpose," Raymond said March 24. "The
ability to put a satellite into orbit is the same capability . as a harmful

Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, also said
the Simorgh could be used as a long-range missile.

"Iran has successfully orbited satellites and announced plans to orbit a
larger satellite using a space launch vehicle, the Simorgh, that could be
capable of intercontinental ballistic missile ranges if configured as such,"
Syring told the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces last

Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), the subcommittee chairman, mentioned the
Simorgh last week as an ICBM ready for launch.

Criticizing President Obama's cuts in missile defenses for years, Rogers
said: "America's enemies know an opportunity when they see one; our allies
see they are on their own. And the president proposed a nearly 10 percent
reduction in missile defense compared to last year's budget request. What
does he think, the Iranians have a Simorgh ICBM on the launch pad because
the mullahs want to go to the moon? My subcommittee will continue to fight
the president's priorities and policies until we get some relief next year."

The Simorgh was identified by defense officials as a covert missile that has
been developed as a space launcher to mask the development.

Iran's space program has included the launch of four satellites that were
placed in orbit between 2009 and last year.

Based on a mockup displayed by the Iranians, the Simorgh appears to be a
two-stage space launcher,

Laura Grego, a defense analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said
the first Simorgh was slated for launch in March. "As far as I can tell,
Iran does not tend to acknowledge failures," she said of the lack of
official Iranian acknowledgement of Tuesday's failed launch.

Grego disagrees with military officials about the missile capabilities of
the Simorgh.

"The Simorgh appears designed specifically as a satellite launcher, not as a
ballistic missile, although some of the technology used in it could be used
for a ballistic missile," she said, adding that it would take significant
time to convert the satellite launcher to a ballistic missile.

Iran also lacks nuclear weapons and has not tested a heat-shielding re-entry
vehicle, a necessary element of a reliable nuclear missile, she said.

However, Iran has cooperated in the past with North Korea, which recently
demonstrated a heat shield for a warhead and showed off what appeared to be
a small nuclear warhead that could be placed on a missile.

Rogers asked both Gortney and Syring last week about Iran's missile programs
and whether  the recently concluded nuclear agreement with Iran had limited
missile development.

Gortney said Iran's nuclear program may be limited by the international
agreement but there has been no change in its missile program.

"We see them continue to develop their propellant, the rocket motor, and we
assume they're continuing to develop a reentry vehicle," Gortney said.

"So we see of the three pieces that they need, a nuclear weapon miniaturized
to put on it, a delivery capable booster, and reentry vehicle. We don't see
the latter two being slowed."

Syring added: "I agree. I do not see it slowing in any way."

The attempted launch of the Simorgh also appears to have violated the United
Nations resolution on the Iran nuclear agreement, which calls on Tehran not
to conduct nuclear missile tests for eight years.

Officials said in February the
pending Simorgh launch was being watched closely.

A State Department official said at the time that any launch of long-range
missiles or space launchers by Iran would be raised in nuclear consultative

Recent Iranian ballistic missile tests prompted U.N. diplomats from the
United States, Britain, France, and Germany to write in March that the
launches defied U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 prohibiting Iran from
conducting launches of nuclear-capable missiles.

President Obama, during a recent television interview, defended the Iran
nuclear agreement despite the apparent missile launches.

"We are continually concerned about the ballistic missile tests and other
military actions that they may take," Obama said on PBS. "But the fact that
there is that argument and that there is a channel between the United States
and Iran for the first time since 1979, I think that is significant. It
provides a possibility of additional changes in behavior."

The launch failure in Iran followed
DFlNDE4NzZlNjMxZjA2NzQxMixFTVJRSFNKYg%3D%3D> a failed launch of a North
Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile last week.

However, in February North Korea conducted a satellite launch that the U.S.
Strategic Command described as a long-range missile test.


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