Update: Two objects from this morning’s launch have been identified in orbit. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the tracking data is “consistent with a launch from Shahroud at 04:00 UTC plus or minus two minutes.” The objects have been given the NORAD Catalog Numbers 45529 and 45530 and are in a 426 x 444 km orbit at 59.8 degrees.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has announced the “launch” of the country’s first military satellite. The announcement appears to end a string of failures that have plagued Iranian launch attempts over the last year.
Early Wednesday morning, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announced it had successfully deployed the Noor military satellite into low Earth orbit. The mission was launched from the Shahroud Missile Test Site aboard a previously unheard-of rocket called the Ghased or the Qased, reports on the exact spelling are currently inconsistent.
The Ghased/Qased rocket is a small two or three liquid-fueled rocket, again reports on the exact makeup of the rocket differ. Images of this morning’s launch appears to indicate that the rocket utilizes a transporter erector launcher.
Video from the launch of NOOR satellite on the QASED SLV. Liquid propulsion first stage can be clearly seen. pic.twitter.com/BgmQC0FSdz
— Tal Inbar (@inbarspace) April 22, 2020
Aboard the Ghased/Qased rocket launched this morning was the Noor 1 military satellite. Curiously, the satellite shares a name with two small satellites built by British company Alba Orbital. The two satellites were launched aboard an Electron rocket in early December 2019.
Needless to say, very few concrete details are known about this morning’s launch. There has currently been no indication that the launch was observed by US reconnaissance satellites, as has been the case in the past, and there is also no orbital tracking information available for the Noor 1 satellite.
If the successful deployment of the Noor 1 satellite is confirmed, the launch will bring a year-long string of failures to an end. Iran launched two missions in 2019 aboard Safir rockets, both of which failed.