Minutes after launching a three-stage rocket carrying a research lab, Wednesday, Nov. 26, Iran’s nuclear chief announced Iran now has more than 5,000 centrifuges operating at its uranium enrichment plant, flatly defying UN resolutions.
Explorer-2, a three-stage rocket, spent 40 minutes in space; the space lab aboard was parachuted to land. debkafile‘s military sources report that this was the first time Iran had launched a three-stage rocket like the Israeli Shavit.
It followed a test-fire earlier this month of a new surface missile, the 2,000-km Sejili.> The special features of this ballistic missile, as first disclosed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 373 of Nov. 21, point to significant advances in Iran’s solid-propellant, two-stage missile development. Our military experts note that the same long-range ballistic technology applies equally to putting satellites in space and launching weapons capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
After the Sejil’s launch, Tehran will no doubt start converting its arsenal of surface missiles from liquid to solid fuel and go on to develop a capability for launching space satellites both for military use and civilian research.
Two missile launches in a month indicate that Tehran has put its ballistic missile development into top gear, an extremely troubling development for Washington, Jerusalem and the European nations within range.
Last February, Iran launched Explorer-1 which almost certainly failed to reach orbit, at the same time unveiling its first space center and promising to put its first satellite in space next year. Then too analysts pointed out that the Explorer series could serve doubly for telecommunications and guiding intercontinental missiles.
Unfortunately, say debkafile‘s military sources, Israeli leaders appear to have fallen behind the alarming events rushing forward in Iran: In a single week, the UN nuclear watchdog reported Tehran had stocked enough enriched uranium to make its first A-Bomb, while US analysts expect the Iranian to be able to make three bombs by the end of 2009. The Kavosh-2 launch shows Iran may have already perfected the missile technology to deliver warheads. However, instead of addressing this peril, defense minister Ehad Barak is mired in a huge effort to hold back a military operation in the Gaza Strip, keep his Labor party from crumbling and battling the Hebron Jewish community.