A previously undisclosed site advertised by Iran as a launching pad for its space program could be used for testing ballistic missiles, according to a London-based weapons research publication.
The publication IHS Jane’s analyzed satellite imagery and concluded that the site, located 220 miles east of Tehran near the Caspian Sea, was developed in the last three years to be one of three launching sites for Iran’s space program, the New York Times reports:
The Jane’s report was likely to be viewed with concern by Western officials and Israel. They have expressed suspicions that Iran’s ballistic missile development is part of what they view as the country’s ambition to build nuclear weapons that can be mounted on missile warheads. Iran has denied such ambitions.
The report said the Shahrud site had a launching tower approximately 70 feet tall, identical to one at a site near the city of Semnan, which is about 150 miles east of Tehran. It said both sites might be used to launch the Simorgh rocket, which Iran introduced in 2010 as a way to carry orbital satellites into space, or even bigger rockets
Jane’s said Iran’s development of the new site, despite the rising economic pressures because of Western sanctions, might be interpreted by some analysts as evidence that the Iranian military wants multiple locations capable of firing ballistic missiles as part of a deterrent strategy against attack. But the report also expressed strong skepticism of such an interpretation.
Iran’s nascent space program launched a monkey into space in January.