DE FAAKTO INTELLIGENCE RESEARCH OBSERVATORY
IS THE UNITED STATES ENGAGING IN SABOTAGE OF IRANS SPACE PROGRAM?
BACKGROUND & ANALYSIS
Iran has developed the Safir -Space Launch Vehicle. The Safir SLV is designed to deliver satellites to low earth orbit. The Safir is a two stage, liquid propellant rocket with a payload of 50 Kg. The technology from the Safir SLV is easily transferable from Iran’s Space Program to its ballistic missile program. The U.S. has long denounced Iran’s space program as being a front for the development of ballistic weaponry. According to James Clapper the Director of National Intelligence in 2016; Iran’s progress on SLVs “provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs.” The United States, under President George W. Bush developed a sabotage program in an effort to counter Iran’s ability to advance ballistic missile technology. The aim of the program is to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains. Over the last 11 years 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed. This is an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.
- On Thursday August 29, a rocket set to carry an Iranian communications satellite into space exploded at the launch site at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran
- The space center is approximately 200 miles to the east of Tehran (Vox, 2019)
What Type of Rocket Exploded?
- The rocket that exploded has been identified as the Safir Space Launch Vehicle (Vox, 2019)
What Do We Know About the Safir Space Launch Vehicle?
- The Safir is Iran’s first space launch vehicle (SLV); it is used to place satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO)
- As of October 2017, the Safir has placed four small satellites into LEO (CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2019)
- Originated from: Iran
- Possessed by: Iran
- Class: Space launch vehicle (SLV)
- Basing: Land-based, gantry launched
- Length: 22 m (1st Stage: 13.5 m, 2nd Stage: 8.5 m)
- Diameter: 1.25 m
- Launch weight: 26,000-27,000 kg
- Payload: 50 kg satellite
- Propulsion: Two-stage, liquid propellant
- Range: 300-350 km altitude (low-orbit)
- Status: Operational
- In service: 2009-present (CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2019)
Why Does the Safir Matter?
- The Safir’s apparent purpose is to deliver satellites into orbit
- The technology from the Safir SLV is easily transferable from Iran’s Space Program to its ballistic missile program
- According to James Clapper the Director of National Intelligence in 2016; Iran’s progress on SLVs “provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs” (CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2019)
- The U.S. has also long denounced Iran’s space program as being a front for the development of ballistic weapons
- Tehran has denied these claims, arguing that it would like to engage in scientific pursuits in space as other nations have done (Vox, 2019)
Is There A Sabotage Program Directed by the United States at the Iranian Space Program?
- Yes, the US does in fact have a program that aims to sabotage Iranian missile development (Vox, 2019)
- The sabotage program was created under President George W. Bush
- The aim of the program is to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains
- The program was active early in the Obama administration, but had been eased
- CIA Director Pompeo took over the program and injected it with new resources (New York Times, 2019)
- Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran’s missile program, accused American and allied intelligence agencies of turning their campaigns of “infiltration and sabotage” to Iran’s missile complex from its atomic infrastructure
- The C.I.A. declined to comment on the sabotage efforts
- Government officials asked The New York Times to withhold some details of its reporting, mostly involving the identities of specific suppliers to the Iranian program, because the effort is continuing (New York Times, 2019)
- The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force rejected the claim that the U.S. has been sabotaging Iran’s missile program, saying it is just a lie
- Iranian military officials said when the U.S. and Israel attempted to sabotage Iran’s missile industry; the country’s missile experts foiled the plot vigilantly (Tehran Times, 2019)
What Do We Know About U.S. Sabotage Efforts?
- Over the past 11 years 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed
- This is an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches (New York Times, 2019)
Experts worry Trump revealed US secrets when he tweeted a photo of an Iranian launch site-Vox.com (2019) https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/8/31/20842083/donald-trump-us-secrets-iran-rocket-tweet-sensitive-classified-photo
Missile Threat-CSIS Missile Defense Project-CSIS (2019) https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/safir/
U.S. Revives Secret Program to Sabotage Iranian Missiles and Rockets-The New York Times (2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/iran-missile-launch-failures.html
IRGC general: Claim that U.S. sabotaging Iran’s missile program is a lie-Tehran Times (2019) https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/433222/IRGC-general-Claim-that-U-S-sabotaging-Iran-s-missile-program