Middle East

Iran’s Space Odyssey Raises Red Flags for Nuclear Community

Written by Gawdat Bahgat

Khomeini Space Center. The two-hundred-pound satellite, called Payam (message in Farsi), was designed and produced at Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology. According to Telecommunications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, the rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch. Iranian scientists will analyze this failed attempt and will try again. Indeed, Tehran plans to launch two satellites in 2019—Payam and Doosti (friendship in Farsi). Both are intended to gather information on environmental changes in Iran. After the launch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that Iran’s space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons to the U.S. mainland. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed these sentiments and claimed that the satellite launch was an attempt to develop long-range missiles.

The country takes significant pride in the technological advances it has made in its space program. The Islamic Republic is one of a handful of nations with indigenous space-launching capability. Since 2009, it has dedicated a National Day of Space Technology to celebrate its scientific achievements. A landmark step was taken in February 2009 when Tehran successfully used the Safir (ambassador in Farsi) space launch vehicle (SLV) to launch the Omid satellite. This rocket was designed to carry a light payload into low-earth orbit. A more powerful one, Simorgh (phoenix in Farsi), was designed to carry heavier payload into orbit. Since 2009, Tehran’s space activities have slowly progressed, and it has launched other satellites into orbit, including Rassad (Observation) and Navid-e Elm-0 Sanat (Harbinger of Science and Industry).

Iran’s interest in outer space goes back to the late 1950s when the United Nations General Assembly created the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Iran, along with several other nations, was a founding member in this committee. The COPUOS seeks to foster international cooperation and promote the exploration and use of space for global peace, security and development.

Read more at National Interest


About the author

Gawdat Bahgat

Gawdat Bahgat is a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. government or the policies of the Department of Defense.