Iran to launch satellite with homegrown rocket

Will this escalate the antagonism with the U.S.?

Published September 25, 2008 9:00PM (EDT)

One wire item that caught my eye today is the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that Iran will soon be launching a homegrown rocket and satellite, marking the first time the country will have managed to get both a domestically made rocket and a satellite into space. Previously, Iran launched a satellite on a Russian rocket in 2005. This month, Iran participated in a joint-country research satellite aboard a Chinese rocket, and managed to launch its own single rocket.

The Associated Press reports that this new rocket will have 16 engines and will be able to haul payloads about 430 miles into space, and its accompanying satellites will be for both communication and meteorological purposes. However, while nothing has been announced concerning military satellites, the ability of a rogue nation like Iran to have a military presence in space -- be it for navigation or for the purposes of shooting down other space vehicles -- is definitely a bit disconcerting for American military planners.

Another AP article, from 2007, points out:

A satellite launch had been expected ever since the magazine Aviation Week reported comments by a top Iranian lawmaker, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, in January that Iran had assembled a space launch vehicle (SLV) that would lift off soon. An SLV is any type of rocket used to launch a spacecraft or satellite into orbit.

The announcement raised eyebrows because experts say there is little difference between the technology needed to construct an SLV and that needed to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry warheads.

A Middle East journal article from 2006 asked if Iran's space program was "the next genie in a bottle," noting:

Iran's reentrance into space using an indigenously-developed system would provide the country with an unprecedented amount of national pride. Becoming a space power would unite the Iranian people and further legitimize the leadership's policies. Achieving this technological feat would also significantly increase Iran's global position and create new concerns for the international community.

I really hope that this doesn't give our leaders a casus belli for a military engagement with Iran, but still, it's easy to see why they would be deeply concerned.

By Cyrus Farivar

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