U.S. Secretary of State Blasts Iranian Satellite Launch

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State

Press Statement

For years, Iran has claimed its space program is purely peaceful and civilian. The Trump Administration has never believed this fiction. This week’s launch of a military satellite by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, makes clear what we have said all along: Iran’s space program is neither peaceful nor entirely civilian.


An Overview of Iran’s Counterspace Strategy and Space Program

Safir rocket on launch pad (Credit: ISA)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarizes Iran’s counterspace strategy and its launch vehicle and satellite programs.

Country Summary

Iran has a nascent space program that includes building and launching small satellites that have limited capability, although it has experienced several recent failed launch attempts. Technologically, it is unlikely Iran has the capacity to build on-orbit or direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) capabilities, and little military motivations to do so at this point. Iran has demonstrated an EW capability to persistently interfere with commercial satellite signals, although the capability against military signals is difficult to ascertain.


Iran Claims Successful Satellite Launch

Imam Khomeini Spaceport (Credit: Tasnim News Agency)

Iran claims it successfully launched a military satellite into orbit. The Associated Pres reports:

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which the [Revolutionary] Guard called “Noor,” or light. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, which contend that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On its official website, the Guard said the satellite successfully reached an orbit of 425 kilometers (264 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The Guard called it the first military satellite ever launched by Tehran.

The two-stage satellite launch took off from Iran’s Central Desert, the Guard said, without elaborating or saying when exactly the launch took place. The paramilitary force said it used a Ghased, or “Messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space, a previously unheard-of system.

For more information about Iran’s space and counterspace programs, see this excerpt from a recent report issued by the Secure World Foundation.

U.S. Condemns Iranian Satellite Launch

Imam Khomeini Spaceport (Credit: Tasnim News Agency)

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State

The Iranian regime uses satellite launches to develop its ballistic missile capabilities.  The technologies used to launch satellites into orbit are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in longer range systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.  Each launch, whether failed or not, further allows Iran to gain experience using such technologies that could benefit its missile programs under the guise of a peaceful space program.

Iran’s series of space launches reflects the failure of the Iran deal to constrain testing that could support further advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile program.  The Iran deal lifted the prohibition on Iran’s missile testing and development of systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and we are seeing the dangerous consequences today.  The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism should not be allowed to develop and test ballistic missiles.  This common sense standard must be restored by the international community.

The United States will continue to build support around the world to confront the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity, and we will continue to impose enormous pressure on the regime to change its behavior.

Editor’s Note: Iran’s Simorgh rocket failed to orbit an Earth observation satellite on Sunday.

Iran Becoming a Space Power


With the success of a domestically-built and -launched satellite in February 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran became the first Islamic nation and the ninth nation overall to launch its own payload into orbit.

Since that launch, Iran has expanded its activities in space, reporting that it has committed significant funds to its space program, announcing new satellite and rocket plans, as well as promising to put a man in orbit by 2025.

Secure World Foundation (SWF) has issued an Iranian Space Launch Capabilities Fact Sheet with Tiffany Chow as its main author from SWF’s Washington, D.C. office.


India Wooing Iran With ISRO Satellite Launch Offer


Delhi reaches out to lonely Tehran, may offer ISRO launch for satellite
Indian Express

New Delhi plans to woo Tehran with offers of greater intelligence sharing, revival of defence training and a possible launch of the latter’s satellite but will remain non-committal on the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.


Iranians Planning Human Spaceflight Program

The Tehran Times says that Iran is planning to become the latest country to send humans into space:

Iran plans to send astronauts into space and is currently conducting the relevant studies, Communications and Information Technology Minister Reza Taqipour announced on Saturday.


Iranian President: We’re Now a Space and Nuclear Power

Iranian president declares his country a space and nuclear power
RIA Novosti

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that pressure from Western powers trying to keep Iran in economic isolation have in fact spurred the country to become a space and nuclear power.


New International Space Race Heats Up

Michael Belfiore has an excellent roundup of the nations that are leading the way in the new international space race over at Popular Mechanics:

With a flurry of international efforts toward satellite launch capabilities (from home), getting back to the moon and putting citizens in space, some experts say we are looking at a new space race–one focused on total space dominance. And should we be worried? After all, the first space race had at its core a battle for who could build the biggest intercontinental ballistic missiles.


Iran to Launch Humans Into Space by 2021?

Iran to launch first manned spaceflight by 2021 – space agency
RIA Novesti

Iran will send its first man into space on board its own spacecraft by 2021, the head of Iran’s Aerospace Agency announced on Thursday.


Iran Joins Space Age as it Lofts Satellite into Orbit

Iran launches own space satellite to mark 30 years since revolution
Times Online

Iran has claimed success in launching its first home-built satellite into orbit, using a rocket which the West believes is part of its long-term ballistic missile programme.


Iran Joins Exclusive Orbital Club

Iran sparks US concern with satellite rocket launch

“Iran said it had sent a rocket carrying a dummy satellite into space on Sunday, triggering fresh concern in Washington that the technology could be diverted to ballistic missiles.

The launch is likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear drive, which Iran’s arch-foe Washington and its allies claim is a cover for atomic weapons ambitions.”

Editor’s Note: This will probably make it a bit more difficult for NASA to get an exemption to spend money on Russian Soyuz flights to the International Space Station.  U.S. law bans contracts with Russia and other nations that have been providing technical support for Iran’s nuclear program.

NASA will be heavily dependent upon Russia for transportation to the station after it retires the space shuttle in 2010. The shuttle’s successor, Orion, is not to set to fly until 2014 or 2015.