Iran marked the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution with a successful launch of its first indigenous satellite on Feb. 2. The Omid -- "Hope" in Farsi -- satellite was launched via the Iranian-produced satellite carrier Safir-2 -- translated as Ambassador-2.
According to the Iranian Space Agency, the Safir-2 weighs 26
tons, is 22 meters long, 1.25 meters in diameter and can carry a
satellite 155 miles into space. Documentation for this can be found
defense experts have estimated that if Safir-2 were to carry a
small warhead, it could reach targets within a range of roughly
1,550 miles. That's enough to put Israel and most of the Middle
East in its sights, as The New York Times reported at http://
History demonstrates that countries that obtain intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities have robust satellite programs. Examples include the United States, the old Soviet Union, France and China.
As Iran's ICBM capability advances, it will allow warhead delivery against the United States. A long-range missile fired from Tehran would be able to reach America's Eastern Seaboard in half an hour. defense experts agree that the technology used for launching a missile capable of orbiting a satellite gives the necessary technological means to reach any target with a warhead.
According to the Iranian Space Agency, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards, Omid is a research satellite equipped with a remote-sensing, satellite-telemetry and geo-information system. It is more advanced than the Soviet-era "Sputnik technology." In the past, such technology had laid the foundations for some modern-day reconnaissance satellites. Omid may therefore also be a step in Iran's developing surveillance capability.
The Safir-2 space launch vehicle used to launch Omid is even more alarming. Uzi Rubin, a senior Israeli defense expert and former head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization, suggests that Iran's satellite launch demonstrates Tehran's mastery of ballistic missile technologies. There is a "strong synergy between ballistic missiles and space launchers," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
Rubin warned that the security community must take the satellite launch very seriously. His assessment can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123517621950437485.html.
As Iran achieves its own space-launch capability, it improves its long-range ballistic missiles. As we have written previously, such was the case with the Soviet Union's 1957 flight test of the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7/SS-6. This success was promptly followed by the world's first orbiting satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957.
Similarly, the United States used the first intermediate-range ballistic missile, Redstone, to orbit the Explorer 1 satellite in February 1958. In Iran, a similar pattern of interoperability between the civilian-scientific and military-nuclear functions of intercontinental ballistic missiles can be expected. Therefore, the Safir rocket technology is likely to be used for ballistic missiles.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at the Allison Center of the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in UPI