IRANIAN PRESIDENT RAISI’S RENEWED EMPHASIS ON SPACE IS LIKELY TO CREATE NEW TENSIONS
Western press reporting on the first 100 days of Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, has naturally focused on his impact on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. But in Iran, officials refer to three, not two, “
In his first 100 days, Raisi has moved to place his imprint by reinvigorating Iran’s space program, the results of which will be visible in the coming months and years. Raisi has now set in motion a process that will result in Iran launching more satellites in the coming year, unveiling new space launch vehicles, and breaking ground on a new space launch facility in southern Iran. These developments will understandably be interpreted by Western media in the context of Iran’s missile programs and the broader security situation. But it is important to understand that Iran is also deeply committed to the economic, military, and security uses of outer space.
Raisi Moves to Revive Iran’s Space Programs
Raisi is very publicly attempting to reinvigorate an Iranian space program that has been struggling in recent years. His new communications minister has criticized the state of the space program left by his predecessor — he called it “
The Revolutionary Guard’s space program exists outside this structure — and outside of Raisi’s control — just as the guard corps itself reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader through the Armed Forces General Staff, not to Iran’s president or defense minister. The Revolutionary Guard has organized and implemented its own parallel efforts to develop launchers, satellites, and ground facilities for military purposes. The guard has described its space efforts as a “
Iran’s state space program under Raisi is organized around two main goals: mastering the “
Iran’s goals under its state space program are longstanding and genuine. Iranian leaders see space, along with nuclear and missile capabilities, as important “
‘A Surprising Number of Launches’
Iran has real goals in space. These goals include showing that Iran can, on a routine basis, place satellites in low earth orbit and operate them and placing Iran’s first satellite in a 36,000 kilometer
The steps taken in the first 100 days of the Raisi presidency suggest we are likely to see Iranian attempts to make serious and rapid progress toward its space goals over the next year.
First, Raisi has
Beyond launches, Iran will likely unveil new launch vehicles and satellites. Iran has already
Iran will also likely announce the construction of a new national launch site at Chabahar. Iran intends this site along the coast in southeastern Iran as the
The Revolutionary Guard is unlikely to leave the spotlight solely to the state space program. Iran’s draft national
Another meeting of the Supreme Space Council is scheduled for March 2022 and another satellite launch is scheduled for February 2022 (either Simorgh or Zoljanah).
After a 8 year hiatus, Iran's space program is back and re-invigorated.
By the end of 2023 hopefully Simorgh or Zoljanah will be operational - giving Iran the indigenous capability to reliably launch dozens of micro-sats (10-20kg), and smaller quantities of mini satellites (100-250kg), into LEO each year. This will enable Iran to work on heavier launchers such as the Sarir SLV, enabling insertion of medium satellites (500kg+) into higher orbits (GEO) by 2026.
Also worth remembering that the U.S. Astra rockets experienced 6 failures in a row before achieving a successful launch (with far greater budget - Simorgh only costs $3m per launch).