Iran declares first successful domestic launch – confusion continues

by Chris Bergin

Iranian State TV this morning reported that Iran had successfully launched a satellite into space on an Iranian built vehicle, as the opening salvo in their homemade space flight ambitions, as they aim to “join the space club.”

Following the contracted launch of the Iranian satellite Sina-1 – conducted by Russia – the launch of the satellite Kavesh (Search) may have been carried out by a converted Shahab-3 missile. However, there is confusion on if this was a proper satellite launch – as claimed – or a sub-orbital launch.

With the current political tensions between Iran and the West, just how the White House will respond to this will be very interesting, although Iran has previously made no secret about its ambitions. This time, however, it appears the launch occurred without the knowledge of the outside world.

According to Mohsen Bahrami, head of the Iranian Aerospace Research Institute, the launch took place, successfully, within the last few weeks, stating ‘Iran has successfully launched its first space missile made by Iranian scientists.’

Previous ambitions that have been made public by the Iranians have always involved peaceful intentions. Following the Sina-1 launch, Iran made it known that they intended to launch five satellites for national communication needs.

There are conflicting reports about the actual launch profile of this vehicle, with wire reports quoting another Iranian official, who claimed the launch was sub-orbital, rising to 94 miles, before falling to earth by parachute. This contradicts Iranian State TV.

The launch did provide some clues to Iran’s ambitions, with Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar noting that the Iran was planning to build a satellite and launcher system, potentially more advanced than the modification of the Shahab-3 missile.

What is clear is Iran now fully intends to join ‘the space club.’

‘Building a satellite and satellite launcher, as well as (previously) launching the first Iranian satellite called Sina with Russian cooperation, and becoming a member of the space club, are part of the Defense Ministry’s plans,’ said the Minister.

The Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile is a fully Iranian built single stage vehicle, and has been the subject of concerns, due to the continuing tensions related to Iran’s continued defiance of UN resolutions regarding their nuclear ambitions.

The vehicle – which is transported by road – has a range of around 800 miles. However, another variant is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles. Should the launch of Kavesh prove an increased capability, concerns will be raised once again on the political playing field.

Shahab, which means ‘Meteor’ or ‘Shooting Star’ in Farsi, is a derivative of the North Korean 1,000 mile range No-Dong missile. The vehicle is capable of carrying a 1,000 kg warhead.

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