back to article Iran satellite fails: ICBM test drive or microsat test? Opinion is divided...

Warned by the US and Israel not to launch a satellite, Iran went ahead and launched one anyway, but the payload didn't make it to orbit. According to the country's official news agency, IRNA, the launch failure was announced by Iran's IT minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi. The Payam-e Amirkabir satellite was sent upwards …

  1. cbars

    worked for North K

    Maybe the Supreme Leader just wants to be mates with Trump

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge

    >>>“All the experts know that satellite carriers and non-nuclear surface-to-surface ballistic missiles are different structurally from missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads” <<<

    Very true, but can you point out the differences while it's going up rapidly?

    If this was a sneaky ICBM test then I would expect a passing fishing boat (with a good radar set) to be in the general area where it comes down.

    1. macjules

      Interviewer to JF Kennedy: "What is the difference between a rocket and a missile?"

      Kennedy: "Attitude."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While all modern ICBM models adopted designs which allow to store them for long times in silos and launch them quickly, nothing forbids use a different design (i.e. liquid fuels, external launchpads) to carry and deploy a nuclear warhead - as the first models ever employed.

      If Iran had abandoned fully and truly its nuclear program, maybe the "satellite" explanation would be more credible. Also, the base name doesn't convey a sense of peaceful aims....

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Exactly - if its fuelled with cryogenics (LOX / Kerosene, for example) then its not for ICBM use. However if its UDMH and N204 or similar then its very, very, suspicious.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "If Iran had abandoned fully and truly its nuclear program"

        Everybody except the current US government says they're in compliance with the nuclear agreement..

        Quite the opposite of North Korea, for which everybody except the current US president say they've not agreed to anything nor stopped.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    “All the experts know that satellite carriers and non-nuclear surface-to-surface ballistic missiles are different structurally from missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads”

    Absolutely, look at R-7, Atlas or Redstone...

  4. DCFusor

    Why the false distinction?

    It need not be either-or at all. Learning about rockets and how to get things launched is at least "dual" use capability.

    If I wanted to eventually do ICBM's, wouldn't I want a spy satellite first to know where best to aim them?

    Not that I think trying to keep science or tech a secret is really a reasonable thing to do, practically or morally, but the discussion seems to miss some important points - everyone could be telling their idea of truth here.

    Iran - nope, this is an attempt at a satellite launch - true.

    Everyone else - we're afraid that if you learn how to do things like that, you might fight back against us - also true.

    Wouldn't a better solution be to make some kind of friends, we're all gonna know how to do anything anyway at some point, but if we don't want

    to kill each other it won't matter if we know how.

    Remember how the crypto wars went, or DRM in pretty much everything from DVDs to video to games? This is a pointless and expensive exercise in the end.

    Science hangs together - there's no way to know how things work without knowing how things work. It's a tool, not an end use, that's determined by things like politics.

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Why the false distinction?

      ...if we don't want to kill each other it won't matter if we know how.

      That, unfortunately, is a caveat that is unlikely to hold..

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If I wanted to eventually do ICBM's, wouldn't I want a spy satellite first to know where best to aim them?"

    You could get a pretty good idea of where to point them by using freely available satellite imagery nowadays....

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Also, the "nice" thing about nukes is not having to worry too much about careful aiming.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Depends on why you're using them - if you want to hit a heavily protected facility, underground, you don't have any other mean to destroy, and you want to minimize other effects, you still need some precise aiming. If you just want to be able to be menacing, aiming is not a problem. Iran falls in the latter case.

    2. keith_w

      I am fairly certain that Iran is aware of the location of Israel and Riyadh.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Yes, if you just want to threaten/deter Israel/Saudi Arabia/USA/anyone accuracy is optional

        Say for example that the Iranians decided to take a shot at landing their warhead in Trafalgar Square, but their guidance system is kind of crap so the warhead came down on top of Brixton, or Wembley Stadium. I don't think that in the aftermath, people will be too thankful that Nelson's Column dodged a bullet. Likewise if you were shooting for the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan, but the warhead came down on The Bronx, The Battery or Newark in New Jersey. The deterrence point is made.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge


      Ironically, Google Maps or Open Street Map should be orders of magnitude better than sufficient for targeting a nuclear warhead. It's only when you try to deliver a conventional payload to a specific target without vaporizing its neighborhood that you need high precision satellite imagery. There are, however, numerous rationales for operating spy satellites that don't involve nuclear weaponry.

      Sadly, the record shows pretty clearly that one can't trust the governments of the US, its military allies, Israel, Russia, North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc, etc to tell the truth about much of anything. I doubt Iran is very trustworthy either. Who can one trust? Maybe the Swiss, but what incentive do they have to share their secrets (if any) with anyone who isn't paying for the information?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pfaghhh!

        Counterforce requires more accuracy than that.

      2. The Nazz

        Re: Pfaghhh!

        Although included in your "and it's military allies" can we just mention Blair by name. Ta.

        Lest people forget.

  6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    “All the experts know that satellite carriers and non-nuclear surface-to-surface ballistic missiles are different structurally from missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads,” Ryabkov said.

    Yeah sure. So this: has absof*ckinglutely nothing to do with this:


    Sure, a "repurposed satellite carrier" cannot be a nuclear deterrent. It takes 24h to bring it to launch condition so you cannot really use it to reply to an attack. It cannot stay in a ready condition for more than 48h (for most fuel types) either.

    That, however does not mean that it cannot be used for a FIRST attack and more specifically to deliver a couple of nukes half a meg each into appropriate positions into near space above any country on the planet. Enough to put it back into the stone age for a few years courtesy of complete grid and telecommunications collapse and irreparable damage to most modern ECUs in most vehicles from harness EMP feedback.

    It is something US has finally admitted to be a threat last year. It took NK launching their ICBMs to 1k miles altitude for someone to finally grok what is the real danger when David goes out and meats Goliath armed with a "sling with one stone in it".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A first strike that takes 24 hours to get ready? Not exactly a surprise attack, is it? And even if it's as effective as you claim (I doubt it, but who knows...), the counterstrike will still launch and take them back not to the Stone Age, but to times when the Earth's surface was not solid yet.

      That's not even considering that them being compliant with the nuclear agreement, they're still a long time away from getting a nuke working, even more from testing it, which would be noticed.

      So, not a realistic scenario at all as long as they're not completely desperate with imminent death looming

  7. Toilet Duk

    If Israel can have illegal nuclear weapons then so can Iran.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Israel's aren't illegal. They didn't sign the nNPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty). The idea of which is that the 5 nuclear powers are supposed to work towards total disarmament and trade civilian nuclear tech with signatories - but signatories aren't allowed to develop nuclear weapons tech. Everyone is subject to inspection and signatories aren't allowed to trade civilian tech with non-signatories.

      Iran and North Korea did sign, then illegally developed secret nuclear weapons tech while signatories. North Korea then pulled out.

      This of course raises trust issues. If you promise not to develop nukes, then get caught doing it in secret, people tend not to trust you when you say you don't intend to use them. Obviously it would be better if Israel didn't have the things either (it would be best if nobody did) - but they didn't lie to anybody about it - or break any treaty commitments they'd signed up to.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That doesn't matter. The point is whether they have them, not whether they broke a promise - something every country does all the time (including the US)

        If the US truly cared about non-proliferation they'd have pressured Israel to not develop nukes. Since everyone knows Israel has them, OF COURSE other middle eastern countries are going to want them too. If the situation was reversed and Israel had signed the treaty and Iran had not and so they could develop nuclear weapons, you damn well bet the US would fully support Israeli efforts to develop nukes in violation of the treaty. We'd have a big pile of senators (at least the ones taking AIPAC money) saying that it was Israel's right to counter the Iranian threat.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          We don't know, because Israel didn't sign the nNTP. You're then left with a question of what to do when they go nuclear. Complain a bit, which they'll ignore, or put them under sanctions, which they'll also ignore. They developed those weapons for a reason. Unless the sanctions are strong enough to actually knacker their economy/military - at which point they may have given up their nukes, or been destroyed by their neighbours. Remember this happened in the 70s.

          Also, having fought repeated wars with the neighbours (mostly being the attackee not the attacker), Israel signed peace deals when offered. Iran, on the other hand are much more destabilising. They incited and armed one half of the post Saddam civil war, they've funded and armed proxy wars against Israel through Hamas and Hezbollah, they're trying to build a permanent position in Syria, presumably also to attack Israel, they helped turn a local dispute in Yemen into a regional war. Remember the Saudis only intervened militarily on the side of the governmentafter the Iranian backed Houthis had been firing missiles into Saudi Arabia for a few months (recognise that tactic from anywhere?). Not that the Saudis might not have got involved anyway, they're almost as much of a force for instability as Iran.

          But Iran with nukes is much more of a worry, and to a lot more countries, than Israel with nukes.

          Also note that there weren't sanctions against India for going nuclear. Other than refusing to cooperat with their civilian nuclear industry, as required by the nNPT. Because India didn't sign.

      2. Zolko Silver badge

        @Spartacu: "Israel's aren't illegal. They didn't sign the nNPT"

        then they please shut the f**ck up about nuclear arms. Either they sign the treaty and they can join the discussion, or they don't and they don't.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Israel still maintain that they don't have any nuclear weapons.

      1. Danny 14

        not quite, Israel maintain 'no comment' as they do on just about everything.

  8. devTrail

    Red Herring

    The discussion about dual non dual use is pointless. Iran or North Korea don't have the resources to build thousands of missiles together with the warheads and a country with a stockpile close to 10000 nuclear weapons cannot be scared by such flyweights unless they need scarecrows to subjugate their population.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Red Herring

      I think the citizens of New York, Washington or LA might be rather upset if someone nuked their city. Well the suriving ones anyway. Of course the rest of the USA might be able to continue more-or-less normal life around the smoking ruins of one of their great cities - but the fact that their country is able to utterly destroy Iran with their larger nuclear force would be little comfort to all the relatives of the hundreds of thousands to millions of the dead.

      1. devTrail

        Re: Red Herring

        The continuosly repeated suggestion that someone might want to start a war against a power thousands time more powerful with the certainty of being annihilated is the proof that US propaganda has exhausted their arguments falling into ridiculous absurdity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Red Herring

          I think you underestimate religious fanatics.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Red Herring

            I don't think Iran is planning to nuke a U.S. city with the expectation that the U.S. will essentially surrender because Atlanta, New York or Los Angeles is gone. What they do want is the ability to possibly get a first strike in on Israel and then confront the U.S. with "Well, Israel is gone now, so you can accept that or launch a counterstrike on us that will devastate Iran, but say goodbye to 1-2 of your major cities in return for the counterstrike. And of course over time that number of U.S. cities destroyed goes up as Iran builds more weapons.

            Or Iran could use the ICBM to deter a U.S. response to more general Iranian shit-disturbance in the Middle East.

          2. 's water music

            Re: Red Herring

            I think you underestimate religious fanatics.

            I think Iran is pretty aware of what American religious fanatics would push for in the event of an Iranian nuclear strike under pretty much any circs, or perhaps of the mainstream support that the fanatics could expect for crazy stuff they are already pushing for

            1. The First Dave

              Re: Red Herring

              Again, I think you underestimate religious fanatics and their logical reasoning (or absence thereof).

          3. Zolko Silver badge

            Re: Red Herring

            "I think you underestimate religious fanatics."

            like who ? Those that want every president swear on the Bible, those whose national anthem is to sing that some God should save some Queen, or those that think that some God gave them some land 6000 years ago and therefore they can take it away from those who have lived there for generations in the meantime ? You're right, they're all scary, although some killed more people than others in the past 1/2 century.

  9. Mage

    different structurally from missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads

    Not for first strike, i.e. not in response to an ICBM. That is if it isn't sitting pre-loaded with fuel.

    Otherwise no different. Lots of satellite launches have used adapted ICBMs.

    However are any of India, Pakistan, Israel etc likely to start a war with a Nuke launch? Not sure how far North Korea is from being able to launch a true ICBM and have the payload survive re-entry.

    Iran, who isn't Arab, may be more worried by some Arab neighbours as Israel or USA.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: different structurally from missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads

      It's hard to know what Iran want really. If they are thought to have viable nuclear weapons, then they're going to start a local arms race. Obviously one major worry for them must be Israel. Having nukes means they're able to retaliate against Israel's superior conventional forces - but also means they are more able to threaten Israel directly, in a way that wouldn't be safe if Isreal were the only one with nukes. At the moment they attack Isreal indirectly - by providing thousands of missiles (of varying sizes) to Hezbollah and Hamas. The downside of going nuclear is the window when Israel may feel forced to attack them before they get the nukes.

      The other problem is the Saudis are rich, and a major political and religious enemy. Not only are the Saudis rich, they're also a good deal less predictable than Israel. And seeing as they bankroll the Pakistani government - could presumably easily access Pakistani nuclear know-how. Turkey are also thought to consider a nuclear Iran worth gunning up for, but I don't think Turkey and Iran's relations are bad in the same way. They've historically been wary of each other, rather than outright enemies.

      I guess we can pretty much ignore Iraq and Syria, they're too busy to be a worry for Iran.

  10. JeffyPoooh

    Joe: ULA's Delta, Atlas, And Vulcan Rockets

    "Iranian space launch vehicles (SLVs) incorporate technology that is virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles, including in intercontinental ballistic-missiles (ICBMs).”

    'Answers With Joe' (YouTube) *just* [Published on Jan 14, 2019] did a video on the commonality of missiles and rockets. Not limited to any particular country.

    Reportedly, the Saturn V was the very first rocket specifically designed for peaceful purposes (as opposed to being a converted misssile).

    Video Title = "ULA's Delta, Atlas, And Vulcan Rockets - The Past And Future Of Space Travel"

  11. duhmb

    weather sat - really

    Its cheaper to get the nice Russians to send up a weather satellite, so its all BS

  12. sanmigueelbeer

    I remembered North Korea did the same thing: Pretend to launch a "satellite" when the intention was to test the rocket and instruments.

  13. HamsterNet

    Come on IRAN

    More sanctions! They already can't buy anything from the west as Western banks don't accept payment originating in Iran.

    America used its stick for nothing in return, now Iran is free to pursue its own stick to trade for an even better deal, whilst also getting closer to the ultimate safety stick of being Nuke armed.

    No Nuke armed country has ever been invaded.

    Every time America sanctions Iran, Iran gets closer to ICBMs and gets a new and better deal.

    Shame really as the Iranians I have spoken too are all really nice well-educated people.

  14. Mark Dempster

    It might prevent US aggression

    Let's not forget that the USA have been making threatening noises towards Iran for many years now - just as they did toward North Korea.

    Those states can be much more confident that Trump won't decide to invade if they're capable of causing some serious damage in return, even if they are totally out-gunned.

  15. phuzz Silver badge


    "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [said] the country is “actually interested in reaching the first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile, violating agreements”."

    That's ok, I'm sure Isreal's Shavit rockets are totally peaceful.

    What's that? They're solid fuelled, almost as if they were developed for an ICBM? Nah, I'm sure that there's a peaceful explanation for that...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Liars and Crooks

    "CNN said..."

    Eff off, nothing good comes of that anymore....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This would not be a problem if

    All countries agreed with a neutral third party to put beyond use their nuclear capability.

    This may actually work if the weaponized materials are physically removed from the planet or converted into a form no longer useless for weapons.

    Extra bonus points if they then do something interesting like superconduct at room temperature or convert solar energy into electrical energy at >80% efficiency.

    Note: may need some near Magitech (tm) but in principle the impact of converting all the uranium, radium, plutonium and other "nasty" materials into something less dangerous yet retaining things like medical isotopes assuming fusion still works is actually a minor problem.

    Even the top 1.8km of the planet feasibly within range of a quantum electrophoretic transmutation field may be enough.

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