Report: Iran Uses Civilian Space Program Launch Pad as a Cover for Missile Tests

On January 29, Iran conducted a missile launch from the Semnan Launch facility. ISI intelligence team has revealed extensive activity around one of the launch pads that suggests Iran is using a civilian space facility for military purposes

Photo: AP

A Fox News report, based on American intelligence officials & iSi imagery, suggests that Iran quickly cleaned up the site and prepared another missile on the same launch pad near Semnan, about 140 miles east of Tehran. The officials verified that the images show the preparation of a Safir missile for launch.

iSi analysis, based on imagery from IAI's EROS-B Very High-Resolution Satellite, dating January 24th and February 3rd, 2017, reveal with high certainty that the civilian Iranian space program launch pad was used to launch a medium-range ballistic tactical missile.

Some media outlets reported that the missile fired was the Khorramshahr missile – a locally produced version of the Musudan, a North Korean intermediate-range missile. The significant activity spotted at the Missile Assembly structure, and the surrounding area can point not only to the location of the Khorramshahr launch but also reveal what seems to be preparations for additional launches shortly afterward.

The Safir Launch Preparations

The Semnan Launch facility, which in regular days looks abandoned, is now the center of Iranian activity. As Fox News suggested, signs are indicating Iran was preparing a Safir for launch and then abandoned the plan. The iSi imagery shows that about 12 vehicles are surrounding the launch pad. One of them is a crane, engaged in fixing one of the telemetry poles that surround the pad.

There is also activity at the missile integration structure and a presence of possibly three other launchers that may indicate an intention for multiple missile launches.

According to iSi, such a change to a launch pad that did not change in years is evidence of a significant event that has happened to it. Also, a change including “fixing” and cleaning it, plus the surrounding activities, can point to a new launch soon.

It is not clear why the Safir launch was aborted or what Iran is preparing for at the Semnan Launch facility.

“Civilian” Launch Pad

Another aspect observed in the analysis is the dual use of the “civilian” launch pad at Semnan Launch facility. Allegedly, this is a civilian facility to launch satellites into space, but it seems that Iran uses it as a cover to launch surface-to-ground missiles.

The imagery by the EROS-B shows a significant change to the concrete pavement of the launch pad which had a few symbols on it including that of the Iranian civilian space program. Those symbols were scorched clear by the flames emanating from the missile during the launch.


Iran is using a civilian space facility for military purposes (Dual Use).

If the Khoramshar missile is based on the Musudan (BM-25) as reported, then Iran adjusted the Semnan Launch facility for North Korean hardware. This adjustment might indicate an active cooperation in missile development.

The Musudan missile has a range of about 4000 Km (2500 miles). This range includes most of Europe cities and the Middle East.

The analysis also indicates that Iran continues developing its missile industry, including mobile IRBM missile with the possibility to load a nuclear warhead (if Iran will develop such ability in the future).


This report was originally published on iSi's website.