Geoff FordenOnce again, Iran launches a space rocket…

Iran’s missile and rocket activity is really amazing! The media is reporting that Iran has once again launched a rocket into space. (see this Reuters report ) This time it is the “Kavosh 2”, which I assume is just a transliteration variation of last February’s Kavoshgar since both are translated as Explorer. (By the way, there is a company who, for about $100,000, will tell you “all” the variations in translation of names and other words from a foreign language into English with a percentage associated with it.)

The news reports are not giving many details yet. They do give a few tantalizing tidbits. First, the entire flight, from launch to return to Earth, lasted about 40 minutes and that it “test[ed] the separation of engine and body.” I find the 40 minutes entirely consistent with a sounding rocket whose payload reached a height of about 450 km and whose parachute opened up at about 10 km. I did this rather quickly and used a Nodong model instead of a Shahab-3B model, which probably would have gone a little higher. Presumably, the separation they are referring to was the payload. But why does that need to be tested?


  1. Tal Inbar

    It is a sounding rocket, but as we know, there are no two missile technologies – every test of a separation mechanism or large diameter solid rocket engine is a step in the right direction, as Iran sees it.

    I found an interesting picture of the KAVOSH here:

    See the launcher – it is the same as those used for the Zelzal rockets; Note how it is able to launch vertically – using a ramp.

  2. Tal Inbar
  3. Geoff Forden (History)

    Very interesting! Thanks for digging this up. Since it is different from the Kavoshgar, perhaps the difference in name does mean something?

    For a 600 kg payload, I get that the apogee would be 200 km and while the ballistic portion of its trajectory would be shorter, it is still consistent with an approximately 40 minute flight; so much can be absorbed by the parachute!

    (This was before I saw your second post!)

  4. Geoff Forden (History)

    These are great photos that Wonk-reader Tal Inbar has referenced. They show so much interesting information that I thought it would be important to post them here.


    Perhaps the line about testing the “separation of the engine from the body” implies that the second stage didn’t ignite? But that, of course, is mere speculation.

  5. Omid (History)

    This rocket differs from Kavoshgar-1.It’s just a small sounding rocket like Orion or Black Brant V.I saw the video on TV but I can’t find it on the web.That was a small rocket fired and the next scenes showed a payload coming down by paracute.I think it had a length of about 3 meters.

  6. Tal Inbar

    A video clip of the launch can be found here:

  7. Geoff Forden (History)

    This is a very interesting launch. However, it is far from clear to me that it is a two stage rocket. In addition to the video not showing any indication of a staging event (at lest to me) the parachute appears to come from the tail end of the payload. I’m not saying Im sure about this, but I think there is certainly room for doubt.

  8. Jochen Schischka (History)

    Very interesting, indeed!

    What we clearly see on these pictures is a small composite-solid-fueled, presumably unguided rocket without spin-up-engine launched vertically (or almost vertically – did anybody else notice the fact that the launch-vehicle had to be parked “uphill” to make this possible?) from a rail (my guess is the Nazeat-6H or Zelzal-1).

    The warhead on this rocket was obviously replaced by a fin-stabilized, separating RV with an internal parachute (i agree with Geoff – i don’t think there was a second stage on this one).

    I’m not sure if i’m willing to accept the 40-minutes-figure, though…(this could be a mistake by the media, confusing e.g. seconds with minutes, burnout-time with flight-time, 4 with 40 etc.)…

    What is somewhat astonishing to me is that this shot bears no resemblance at all with the Kavoshgar-1-launch – less delta-v and thus less height, small solid-booster instead of large liquid-booster, unguided shot instead of guided, completely different RV.

    Can anybody please translate the writing on the RV in Farsi?

  9. Jonathan McDowell (History)

    I conclude this is a small single-stage sounding rocket with a separable recoverable payload section. I predict it will turn out to have a 100 to 200 km apogee, probably at the lower end of that range.

    It is clearly different from the Shahab-3-based, blue-tipped rocket whose photo was associated with Kavoshgar-1. However, I recall some confusion at the time; is it possible that we never really saw a picture of Kavoshgar-1 and that photo is really a different launch?

  10. Geoff Forden (History)

    When I use the time stamp on the video, I get a 12 second burn time. Using that in my model for the Zelzal 2 (which I had artificially incresed to 60 s to get the 300 km range some claimed for that rocket) I get a maximum altitude of roughly 145 km. I think that 40 minutes is not unreasonable. If its parachute opened up at 10 km, then an average drop rate of 5 km/hr would produce a roughly 40 minute flight time. Four minutes, on the other hand, which is the mostly likely translation error considering the ambiguity between “0” and “.” between Arabic and English numbers , would be two minutes too short for a completely ballistic trajectory (which I calculate would take about 6 minutes).

  11. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Geoff:

    From what i’ve seen, the missile is too small to be the Zelzal-2 with a 610 mm-diameter (which, as i believe, doesn’t come anywhere near a 300km-range – hey, this thing is UNGUIDED!). Besides, i don’t see any evidence for a spin-up-motor on that missile (which the Zelzal-2 and -3 clearly have).

    Please reconsider your estimation/simulation/reconstruction with this in mind. (4 min could fit quite nicely with the smaller missile…)

  12. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Jonathan McDowell:

    The Iranians were so kind to paint “KAVOSHGAR 1” in big letters on that missile…(as can be seen in this video:…

  13. Arash

    Acceleration of missile is just amazing so the speed of missile. It looks like anti ballistic missile lunch to me.

  14. Jonathan McDowell (History)

    Jochen – OK that’s very convincing! I hadn’t seen that video. So, Kavoshgar is a generic name that applies to different payloads launched on different rockets.
    For Arash: that acceleration is pretty typical of small sounding rockets, I think.

  15. Mehdi

    For whom it may concern,
    The farsi writing on the rocket reads:
    “Aerospace Research Center”.

    And IMHO, this was rather a test of electronics/real-time communication systems, than other rocket science aspects.

  16. Tal Inbar

    To Arash

    Fast acceleration is a known characteristic of sounding rockets. What Iran has launched is a rocket and not a missile, and there is nothing about it that is even remotely related to anti ballistic missile system.

  17. Anon

    Perhaps Kavoshgar is not the name of an actual rocket design, but the name of an R&D program? Possibly testing some technologies which are interesting for some reason, but considered too unmature/risky to incorporate into ongoing projects without preliminary testing.

    Could be useful for training more engineers as well, allowing them to bite into something real without risking too much. The use of a ramp to allow a vertical launch suggests to me a very low budget.

  18. aaaa (History)

    it seems they just launched a second stage from the first stage frame, i’m not so expert, please forgive me

  19. Arash

    Tal Inbar, I did not get from your name from are you from? and how deep is your knowledge about iranian missile program but just for your concern A missile is any type of non-bullet projectile so if you allow us let call it missile same as iranian and other news agency. This accelaration speed is quite amazing and i did not see even any US or russian lunch video footage even close to this speed. If you have any please povide me with URL and I will glat to see it.

  20. Geoff Forden (History)

    If I could just intervene here to make sure that there are no misunderstandings that lead to unintended harsh feelings: in the technical jargon of some experts, “missile” is often used to mean a guided object while “rocket” is used to refer to an unguided projectile. Obviously, you or anyone else can refer to it as you please and you are quite correct in noting that in the general usage missile can be used to refer to any flying object. But when Wonk-reader Tal Inbar says it was not a missile, he means he believes it was an unguided rocket, much like NASA uses for its unguided sounding rockets.

  21. Tal Inbar


    You can see here several launches of sounding rockets:

    I am the head of the space research center of the Fisher institute for air and space strategic studies, based at Israel.

    As per the issue of rocket vs missile – what we saw in the experiment is indeed an unguided sounding rocket.

  22. Pedram (History)



    Russian ABM. Nice accelaration too.

    It does not matter what others think about our technology. We have a job to do. They can made any conclusion they want, any terminology they prefer. Who cares.

    I just hope they don end up like Luk Van Prijs, the MIT professor who was sacked over research misconduct.

  23. Arash

    OK, Then because you are from isreal, Please read following report of this lunch on your agency website.

  24. Arash

    Pedram, This is nice lunch and it is anti ballistic missile lunch. In my first post I said with this acceleration, this seems like anti ballistic lunch to me or even a satellite killer missile.

    My last post crached so I sent it once again sorry if it is duplicated.

  25. Tal Inbar

    It is regrettable that some readers (Iranians?) have transformed this valuable blog into a cyber battlefield and a propaganda arena.

    The style of some posts, the claims (“It is anti ballistic missile”) and attitude (“who cares”) is not my cup of tea. Arash and friends – you can say what ever you like – maybe it was a launch to the Moon or mars. Your choice.

  26. kpars

    I apologize for getting off-topic but being a target of such attitude does require a response.

    So If we Iranians make an observation or post a link and/or make an educated guess then it is a propoganda? Does not this claim sounds like propoganda to begin with?

  27. Geoff Forden (History)

    One of the best things about the web is that peoples from different countries can meet as equals and discuss things on neutral territory. I thought long and hard about my role in moderating several of the posts on this thread and concluded that I did not have the right to censor any of them. I can only set an example by trying to be open and definitely polite in all the posts I make here. My preference would be that all readers try not to make implications associated with others’ nationalities. So I want to assure you, kpars, since you bring it up, that you are welcome here and I regret if some reader’s comments could be interpreted as slighting one particular nationality or another. I would just remind all readers of one of the bad things about the web: it is ease to post comments written in haste that must be regretted at leisure.

  28. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Jonathan McDowell:

    Always glad to help!

    To Mehdi:

    Thanks for the translation!

    To Arash:

    …and rockets for fireworks also do accelerate fast – this feature alone is NOT sufficient to qualify for an anti-ballistic-missile!

    BTW, i’d highly welcome, even applaud the Iran indeed putting all of his development-efforts into purely defensive anti-missile-weapons instead of exclusively into strictly offensive surface-to-surface-missiles.

    Much to my discomfort (and, as i’m afraid, sooner or later also to the deep regret of the iranian people), there is no sign for such a trend.

  29. Shay Begorrah

    Dr Forden’s reminder about the virtues of an extended period of consideration before unleashing your anger – even if it is righteous anger, or one’s contempt – even if it seems well deserved, is good advice.

    An oasis like ACW requires sensitive visitors.

  30. Tal Inbar

    Allowing pure antisemitism in this blog is beyond my wildest dreams.

    In the name of “non intervention” Dr Forden is allowing posts accusing Israel in murder, in manipulating the West into a nuclear war, cashing in the holocaust – I find it disgusting and disturbing.

    Take care, have good time and continue with the anti Israeli and antisemitic attitude.

    FORMER reader

  31. Azr@el (History)

    To question the national policies of the state of Israel = racism; what absolute and ill reasoned rubbish. In the name of net harmony I commend the blog owner for his policy of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion and in the same breadth I request my previous post be removed to avoid offending the sensibilities of those prone to primitive sensitivities.

  32. Major Lemon (History)

    Dear Tal,
    On the other hand, you must admit it’s good to have enemies that are so stupid!
    Major Lemon

  33. Major Lemon (History)

    Why do the Iranians make so much of their rocket program? Soviets and Americans did all of this stuff and a lot more 50 years ago.

    Major Lemon

  34. S.B.

    Dear mister Lemon,

    it seems that you’re missing something here.

    The main reason that we all like this blog is that we’re interested in geo-strategic questions.
    In this broader perspective we also like the technical stuff.
    Now many of this technical stuff may not seem much, but most of us here get really excited abouting figuring things out, discovering a new solution and speculating about the problems wich may have been solved etc.

    well now I’m an Iranian and i like Iran.
    But please keep this kind of comments to yourself and share them with your (undoubtedly} intelligent friends, if you’ve nothing constructive to contribute.

  35. KB

    Dear Lemon;

    I am afraid only stupids consider their enemy stupid! And I don’t think Tal is one.

    BTW, seems there are some extensive details about this rocket in these links:( if could someone kindly translate?)

  36. Ataune (History)

    This ( is an interview with the deputy research director of the Aerospace Research Center. Besides the images at the end of the article, other interesting info are:

    – The mission was successful.

    – The goal was to test the separation, on-board instrumentation and parachuting back of the payload.

    – Next project, in 1 to 3 months timeframe depending on weather conditions and [financial] support, might include back and forth journey for a mouse.

    – This is a R&D “rocket” similar to the ones tested regularly in India and Pakistan (in the region) and US academic and research centers.

    – We are ready to accept international “contacts” (sounds like invitation to international scientifique cooperation)

    – Payload around 150 Kg

    – Project time, 10 minutes

    – Height reached, more than 50 Km, but less than 200 Km

  37. hass (History)

    The Iranians don’t make such a big deal of their missile program as do the US and Israel which insist on painting Iran as the aggressor, even as their nuclear weapons are pointed at Tehran. And furthermore, if you remember Iran’s experience of being at the receiving end of surface-to-surface missiles during the Iran-IRaq war, you’d know why they want to make missiles too.