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Iran finally admits rocket launch on December 30th was a failure

One day after implying that the test launch of Iran’s Simorgh orbital rocket on December 30th was actually a suborbital flight and was a success, that same official admitted yesterday that this was not true, that the plan had been to put three satellites in orbit, and that the launch was a failure.

Ahmad Hosseini, an Iranian defense ministry spokesman, revealed that the rocket failed to put its three payloads into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed, according to the news agency.

“For a payload to enter orbit, it needs to reach speeds above 7,600 (meters per second). We reached 7,350,” he said in a documentary broadcast on state TV.

It was Hosseini who claimed the launch was a success the day earlier, implying that the low speed was because the flight was intended to be suborbital. Either he knows nothing about rocketry (very likely), or is merely a mouthpiece who was ordered to change his story when the first story was laughed out of the room (also very likely).

The article at the link focuses on France’s condemnation of the launch, claiming it was a ballistic missile.

France’s foreign ministry said the launch was in breach of UN Security Council resolutions, Reuters reported. “We call on Iran not to launch further ballistic missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, including space launchers,” the ministry said.

Simorgh however is not a ballistic missile. Everything I have read about it suggests it is designed to put payloads in orbit, not deliver bombs to other parts of the globe. A ballistic missile is technically a very different thing. It usually uses solid rockets which can be stored for long periods and launched at a moment’s notice. Simorgh uses hypergolic fuels which — though they can be used on ballistic missiles — are rarely used for that purpose because of their toxic nature.

At the same time, these facts about Simorgh should not make us think Iran is not a threat. If you can develop the manpower and technical know-how to built an orbital rocket, you will also have increased your ability to build missiles. Iran is without doubt working to develop both.

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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3 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    “A ballistic missile is technically a very different thing. It usually uses solid rockets which can be stored for long periods and launched at a moment’s notice. Simorgh uses hypergolic fuels which — though they can be used on ballistic missiles — are rarely used for that purpose because of their toxic nature.”

    I have to disagree

    See the US Titan

    “Titan was a family of United States expendable rockets used between 1959 and 2005. The Titan I and Titan II were part of the US Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fleet until 1987. ”

    “The Martin Company was able to improve the design with the Titan II. The RP-1/LOX combination was replaced by a room-temperature fuel whose oxidizer did not require cryogenic storage. The same first-stage rocket engine was used with some modifications. The diameter of the second stage was increased to match the first stage. The Titan II’s hypergolic fuel and oxidizer ignited on contact, but they were highly toxic and corrosive liquids. The fuel was Aerozine 50, a 50/50 mix of hydrazine and UDMH, and the oxidizer was NTO.”

    Almost all Soviet/Russian ICBM’s used hypergolics (“stored liquid fuels”) because they lagged in solid fuel development

  • Col Beausabre: The Titan was developed in the 1960s, and abandoned decades ago when we signed a treaty with the Russians in I think the late seventies. In general, missiles worldwide today use solid rocket technology, though of course there are exceptions (as I noted).

    I am also certain that Iran could get help to do this from China. In fact, in Iran’s successful orbital in April 2020 solid rocket technology was almost certainly used, as the orbital rocket used a mobile launcher.

    Though everything in Iran is, like China, linked to its military ambitions, for engineering reasons the goals of the Simorgh program appear aimed at actually technology for launching satellites, not ICBM bombs. The two are different.

    Such technology of course will be used to launch surveillance satellites, and as I noted the know-how gained from building it can aid missile development.

  • wayne

    I think the operative word here is “ballistic,” rather than solid vs liquid fuel.

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