Report: New Launch Site Isn't What Iran Claims

It was likely designed to support ballistic missile testing, say experts
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2013 7:00 AM CDT
Report: New Launch Site Isn't What Iran Claims
The rocket dubbed 'Pishgam,' or 'Pioneer' is launched, with a monkey onboard, in an undisclosed location in Iran.   (AP Photo/ISNA, Mohammad Agah)

A new launch site in Iran could be used to expand the country's space program ... or something more nefarious. Jane's Intelligence Review has reviewed satellite photos that it says reveal construction of a launch tower and pad and supporting structures about 60 miles northeast of Tehran, Reuters reports. And while Iran has recently said it is building new bases to launch satellites, the Jane's editor behind the review doesn't think that's the case with this site. Rather, Matthew Clements says it seems primed for ballistic missile testing, reports the Telegraph. "Its location and orientation" would allow missiles to "fly over Iranian territory for 870 miles, meaning large quantities of flight data could be gathered before they drop into the Indian Ocean."

"We can’t see any storage facilities for the liquid fuel needed for the rockets that launch satellites, suggesting it will be used for solid-fuel ballistic missiles," he says, adding there's no reason to believe this is a nuclear facility. Though that should be a silver lining—it isn't. "We often talk about Iran’s nuclear program, but what really spooks countries in the region is the ballistic missiles that could act as a delivery system," a researcher told the Telegraph. "A testing site which helps in that regard is concerning. You don’t improve missiles until you test them." He notes that America has previously estimated that Iran would be ready for such missile testing in 2015. (Read more Iran stories.)

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