Iran Space Program: Going the extra mile, come what may
By: Ghanbar Naderi
Story Code : 772536
The rocket carrying the Payam (Message) satellite fell short of reaching the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch. The rocket, however, successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third.
Regardless of the technical setback, Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi says Iranian scientists will continue their work and the country will undertake two more planned satellite launches later this year. He also says the country has no plans to drop its space program, much less seek permission from the United States to continue such activity.
On that note: A- Iran is one of the founding members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Under the UN mandate, and just like its nuclear energy or stem cell research programs, Iran is entitled to master the technology of launching satellites into orbit.US concerns are not going to stop such upward mobility into outer space.
B- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims Iran carried out the launch “in defiance of the international community” and that the launch violated a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology. Pompeo further claims that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can be used to launch warheads. The problem is that Iran has no nuclear warheads. Also, the country doesn’t consider its space program a matter of national pride, but necessity. These space vehicle launches and missile tests are not violations and will continue.
C- In a subsequent statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Tehran of lying, alleging that the “innocent satellite” was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements. Again, Iran is not using its space program as a cover to develop long-range ballistic missile technology. The country had that technology long before its space program became a reality. Under international law, nothing prevents Iran from developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering satellites for research, imaging and communications purposes.
D- Under a UN Security Council(UNSC) resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers -which Washington pulled out of last year – Tehran is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. Once more, Iran’s satellite launchers are not designed to deliver warheads and don’t violate the UNSC resolution.
Iran launched its first domestically built satellite, the Omid (Hope), back in 2009 on the 30th anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ten years later, the Tuesday satellite was planned to stay at an altitude of 500 km for approximately three years, but its launchers failed to go the extra mile. This clearly means Iran needs more satellites, and “it would not come up short or stop” – despite US pressure and sanctions.
F- As for Washington’s baseless allegations that the long-range ballistic technology can also be used to launch warheads, it suffices to state that the defensive nature of Iran’s military capabilities points to the fact that it does not seek military roles beyond its means. The country simply pursues military deterrence against foreign threats. Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Aerospace Force Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh says the missile program is non-negotiable, and Washington’s insistence that ballistic missiles should become a subject of negotiations is a testimony to the country’s superb capabilities in that sphere.
G- Whatever one thinks of Iran, it has no ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons - unlike the US, Israel, and their NATO allies. White House officials are right to say the same technology that puts satellites into orbit can deliver nuclear warheads. The problem is that Iran does not have nuclear warheads or a nuclear weapons program. Any doubters should ask the International Atomic Energy Agency or the American spy agencies.
The irony is that these apprehensions come from those who in the past used to treat Iran’s satellite launch announcements with skepticism and ridicule - with a grain of salt. To the surprise of these cynical observers, many independent sources, including NASA, continue to verify the successful launch of Iran’s satellites by tracking their current positions in space. The unsubstantiated accusations leveled by the White House officials and Netanyahu are to be understood in these terms.
In summation: According to Jane’s Intelligence Digest, “Tehran now has established its status as having the most advanced space, missile and nuclear programs in the Muslim Middle East, confirming its technical superiority over its Arab rivals.” Also according to the UK’s Royal Society, “Iran has recorded the world’s fastest scientific growth over the past 15 years.”
Notwithstanding the unwarranted paranoia in Washington and Tel Aviv, or the technical setback on Tuesday, the scientific and technological powerhouse in the region has entered the space club and plans a human space mission too. So in few years time, expect postcards and New Year greetings from Iranian astronauts in space.