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Iran and China complete orbital launches

Iran's launch December 6, 2023
Iran’s Salman rocket lifting off today.
The launch site itself was not disclosed.

According to the official state-run press of each country, both Iran and China yesterday completed successfully launches, both of which appeared to test new capabilities of some note.

First Iran announced that it had used its Salman rocket to put a 500-kilogram capsule that it said was carrying biological samples, and was also “has the ability to carry a human,” though the mass of this capsule makes that highly unlikely. Little other information was provided. Nor has this orbital launch as yet been confirmed by the orbital monitoring services of the U.S. military. The image to the right is a screen capture from the launch video at the link, and appears to show that this rocket has only one stage, thus making an orbital launch impossible.

Assuming this orbital launch is confirmed, it was Iran’s second orbital launch in 2023 and will therefore not show up on the launch race leader board below. If further information is obtained I will update this post appropriately.

China in turn announced the successful launch today of a test satellite, using its new Smart Dragon-3 solid-fueled rocket lifting off from a barge in the South China Sea 1,300 nautical miles off the coast of Guangdong province, where Hong Kong is located. To arrive at this ocean launch location took five days. The launch thus tested the use of this mobile floating platform from remote ocean locations.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

89 SpaceX
56 China
16 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches, 101 to 56, and the entire world combined 101 to 90. SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding other American companies) 89 to 90, though it has another launch planned for tonight, with the live stream here.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

9 comments

  • David Eastman

    Salman is the second stage of the Qased rocket. I can’t find a good diagram, and the image above is different from the image shown for the original Noor satellite launch, so it’s impossible to say for sure how it works. But that payload fairing is substantially larger than the previous version, so I assume the second (and possibly third) stages are inside the fairing. It’s also possible that what looks like a fairing is actually the second stage, note the horizontal black line, it could be that below that is the upper stage, and the payload is just in the cone at the top.

  • Jeff Wright

    What I worry about is a simple gun-type warhead with chaff, a warhead of stealth facets and a proximity fuse.

    Israeli incoming might hit the shroud, or trigger a proximity fuse…Iran settling for an EMP strike.

  • Questioner

    To my knowledge, Iran does not have a launch vehicle to carry 500 kg to orbit. I believe this was only a suborbital flight, as indicated by the stated summit altitude of 130 km. There is no stable orbit at this altitude. It is therefore very likely that the author of the original article is wrong (note to Mr. Zimmerman!). According to my research, there is no Iranian orbital rocket named Salman either. As others have pointed out, a second stage has this name.

  • pzatchok

    That is not a Salman solid rocket in the picture.

    By all the details in the picture that is a Shahab-3. The fins match, the body match, the engines match, and that does not look like solid fuel exhaust.
    That red line up the side is just painted black on a regular Shahab-3.

    Its just a bulky capsule adapter on top. Like the falcon9 and others use.

  • pzatchok

    By reducing the Shehab-3 cargo down to 500 kg from 1200kg it might give it a way for a soft parachute recovery system and an added larger diameter adapter.

    Its all for show as far as I am concerned.

  • pzatchok: What I have not been able to determine is whether it made orbit, even if that orbit was low (80 miles) and would decay relatively rapidly. If it did then this was an orbital launch. If not, then I must remove it from my count.

    I have been searching for some indication one way or the other, but have not found it. Anyone out there know more?

  • pzatchok

    They could have used a Qased rocket but those are three stages using both liquid and solid fuel sections.

    But they look quite a bit different than what is in the picture.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qased_(rocket)

  • pzatchok

    No one seems to have confirmed it yet but this sight hints that Iran does not yet have any recovery systems available for any space craft. No heat shields or parachutes capable of bring an orbital vehicle back safe.

    https://www.space.com/iran-bio-capsule-rocket-launch

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