Geoff FordenGoogle Finally Shows IRI Space Center

Quite a few of my friends have been urging me to write something about the “new” images of Iran’s space center that have shown up recently on Google Earth.

The trouble is, I hate rehashing stuff I wrote about almost two years ago when I “discovered” the facility—much like Columbus “discovered” America—and wrote about it in Jane’s Intelligence Review (see Geoffrey Forden, “Smoke and Mirrors: Analyzing the Iranian missile test”, JIR, April 2008, pp. 47-51; I have never understood how the editors pick titles for my papers).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the imagery now, given the connection between these two countries’ missile programs, is the similarity between a building at North Korea’s launch site and one at Iran’s. For those who would like to examine the site themselves, let me replicate the coordinates I published in the open literature for the first time nearly two years ago:

35.234440° N, 53.920798°E.


  1. Mark (History)

    Indeed, Google has it. Can’t wait until StreetView has covered that area, too.

  2. Jochen Schischka (History)

    An interesting addition might be that there obviously is now also a newly-built rocket engine test stand visible on Google Earth, a little bit to the north-east of the launchpad (35.258365°N, 53.956473°E), resembling those found near Teheran (associated with the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group), the Taep’oDong- and the T’ongCh’angDong-launch facilities (35.655257°N/51.651341°E, 40.852532°N/129.676948°E and 39.652620°N/124.714084°E respectively). I know there’s a similar test stand somewhere near Islamabad, too, but couldn’t locate that one on the fly.

    Also very interesting to note is that obviously, there has been no progress on the large construction site to the east of the Semnan launchpad (35.238486°N/53.951211°E) in the last couple of years. Compare that site to the launch facility at T’ongCh’angDong (39.659831°N/124.706208°E) – similar layout and dimensions (but different alignment -> different launch corridor!), if you ask me.
    Is it possible that the Iranians cancelled their orders for Taep’oDong-B missiles after the rather spectacular 2006-disaster (right in front of iranian observers), and from then on did their own thing with the Safir IRILV (which is more along the lines of the Taep’oDong-A, but with a soviet/russian R-27/Serb-vernier-engine on the upper stage) instead?

  3. masini (History)

    very interesting pictures. so we know what was going on

  4. RAJ47

    I think you are talking about this one near Islamabad.
    33 37 24N 73 23 21E

  5. Major Lemon (History)

    Tried flying over the site in FSX but there was nothing there except generic scenery.

  6. ANON

    Plz check this link for before and after images.

  7. Jochen Schischka (History)


    Yep, i think that’s it (although it’s a little bit difficult to say for sure because of the somewhat low resolution – but the general appearance and dimensions of the structure close to these coordinates are about right for that type of test-stand; My guess is that in all these cases, this is for engines in the 30t-class, aka the Nodong/Ghauri/Shahab-3-engine). Thanks!

  8. Amir

    Related article with more recent images (Nov 29 2009) than Google Earth Oct. images:

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