Iran’s Safir Launch Vehicle

Iran’s Safir Launch Vehicle

Authors: Rajaram Nagappa, S. Chandrashekar, Lalitha Sundaresan and N. Ramani

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Irans-Safir-lanch-Vechicle-Report-150x150Iran joined a select group of nations having indigenous satellite launch capability, when it orbited its Omid satellite on the night of February 02, 2009 on board its indigenously developed launch vehicle Safir 2. The event was widely covered in the media and images and video footage of the launch have been posted on the internet.

The launch images confirm the first stage pedigree with the North Korean Nodong missile. The fin shape, the jet vane control system and the exhaust plume signature of the Nodong and Safir first stage are quite similar. North Korea has sold and transferred the technology of this missile to Iran, where it is known as Shahab 3B. (It may be noted that the Pakistani missile Ghauri has a similar linkage to Nodong missile). From the nozzle exhaust signature, it is clear that a single engine (and not a cluster of 2 or 4 engines) is employed for the first stage.

From measurements on the Safir images the length of the first stage is about 15 m. This length includes the engine, the oxidizer and fuel tanks. Our earlier measurement of engine length on the Shahab 3 missile was seen to be 2.25 m. Taking this length for the Safir engine and making allowances for the engine-tank interface as well as the space between the oxidizer and fuel tanks, the total tank length is estimated to be 11.8 m — longer than the tank length of 9.3 m in Shahab3A and 11 m in Shahab 3B, resulting in improved propellant loading. From this, the propellant and the total stage mass have been estimated to be 18.6 tonnes and 21.6 tonnes respectively.

Observation of the Safir launch vehicle images indicated that the diameter of the second stage is the same as the first stage. The total length of the second stage including the interface with stage 1, the engine and the nozzle is about 4.2 m.

The launcher can easily be converted into a two stage missile. Using the derived values of stage and propellant masses and assuming a 1000 kg warhead, the achieved range works out to 2400 km. This would enable Iran to target all parts of the Middle East, parts of Europe and certainly large parts of India from a south eastern location. With the launch of the Safir/Omid mission, Iran has demonstrated core launch vehicle technology capabilities.

Conducting Academic and Policy Research related to National and International Security Issues
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