Monday, February 06, 2012

Iran Launches A Satellite: Jihad From Space?

Iran is claiming that it launched a satellite into space:
Iran’s state-run media reported that the country had launched into space a small satellite carried by a homemade rocket. The launch, which had been planned and announced months ago, is part of a series of festivities celebrating the 33rd anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which culminated in the collapse of the monarchy on Feb. 11, 1979.

State-run television reported that the Navid-e Elm-o Sanat (“Good message of science and industry”) microsatellite carries camera and telecommunication devices and was designed and manufactured in Iran.

Ahmadinejad joined the launch remotely via video link and said he was hopeful the launch would “send a signal of more friendship among all human beings,” wire services reported.
That is all well and good and may sound harmless enough--if this were a country other than Iran, which is busy creating nuclear capabilities. So instead:
Iran’s space program is controversial, as Western nations fear the rockets could be used for regional attacks and — if the country were to produce a nuclear weapon — be fitted with a nuclear warhead. Iran has repeatedly stated that its missile program is for defensive purposes only.

The Navid satellite will orbit Earth at an altitude of up to 234 miles, the Associated Press reported, citing the Islamic Republic News Agency. It is the third small satellite Iran has built and launched in the past few years and the first of three scheduled for launch in early 2012.
Back in 2006, Uzi Rubin wrote about The Global Range of Iran's Ballistic Missile Program:
Iran announced a space program as soon as it tested the first Shahab 3 in 1998. Iranian statements refer to several satellites, some locally made, and an indigenous space launcher. Ultimately, their space program aims to orbit spy satellites like Israel's "Ofek," by an Iranian satellite launcher from Iranian territory. A spy satellite of reasonable performance should weigh about 300 kg. Once Iran learns how to put 300 kg into earth orbit, it could adapt the satellite launcher into an ICBM that could drop more than 300 kg anywhere in the world, for instance, on Washington, D.C. The Iranians could be smart enough not to actually develop an ICBM: every time the Iranian satellite passed above the U.S., it would remind America of Iran's potential to strike it. Remember the impact on the U.S. of Russia's launch of "Sputnik"?
The idea of Iran with its hands on nuclear reactors is an unnerving thought.
The idea of Iran with its own space program does not make one feel any better.

Hat tip: Today's Daily Alert

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