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Construction of the Semnan Spaceport (now known as the Imam Khomeini Space Center) began in 2003. 1 The spaceport comprises two launch pads: an older, medium-sized launch pad with a collapsible umbilical tower, and a newer, larger launch pad with a mobile gantry tower.
Iran inaugurated the spaceport in early 2008 with a test launch of the Kavoshgar 1 (Explorer 1) rocket, which appeared to be a modified Shahab-3B. 2 In February 2009, Iran successfully launched the 27kg Omid satellite into orbit using the two-stage Safir space launch vehicle (SLV). 3 Iran subsequently launched satellites into orbit using the Safir SLV in 2011 and 2012. 4 The launch pad sustained heavy damage during a failed September 2012 launch, but has been repaired and used since, including for a 2015 Safir SLV launch. 5
In March 2010, satellite images revealed the construction of a second launch pad roughly 3km east of the original site. It includes a mobile gantry tower, umbilical tower, two flame trenches, support tunnels, and four large lightning towers. The gantry tower is approximately 45m tall, which far exceeds the needs of the Safir or Simorgh SLVs, suggesting that Iran plans to test new launch vehicle designs. 6 Iran officially inaugurated this new launch complex on July 27, 2017, when it successfully test launched the Simorgh SLV. 7
- Space Launch Vehicle (SLV)
- A rocket used to carry a payload, such as a satellite, from Earth into outer space. SLVs are of proliferation concern because their development requires a sophisticated understanding of the same technologies used in the development of long-range ballistic missiles. Some states (e.g., Iran), may have developed space launch vehicle programs in order to augment their ballistic missile capabilities.
- “Nuclear Iran, Production Capability,” Jane’s CBRN Assessments, 1 October 2009, www.janes.com.
- Aresu Eqbali, “Iran Opens First Space Centre, Launches Rocket,” AFP, 4 February 2008; James Hackett, “Iran’s Great Missile Leap,” The Washington Times, 25 February 2008, www.washingtontimes.com.
- Geoffrey Forden, “Congratulations Iran!” Arms Control Wonk Blog, 3 February 2009, www.armscontrolwonk.com.
- Laura Grego, “Iran’s Launch Today, and in the Future,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 28 January 2013, www.allthingsnuclear.org.
- Laura Grego, “Simorgh Launch: Iran’s Bigger Ride to Space Gets Off the Ground,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 30 July 2017, www.allthingsnuclear.org; “Iran Missile Test Appears ‘Successful,’ U.S. Officials,” AFP, 20 May 2009.
- Melissa Hanham, “How Tall is that Gantry?” Arms Control Wonk Blog, 11 March 2015, www.armscontrolwonk.com.
- “Watch moment Iran successfully launches Simorgh satellite carrier,” Press TV, 27 July 2017, Presstv.com.