Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Has Iran launched a satellite?

The answer appears to be "no," but that wasn't clear from the official press dispatches (some of which contradicted others). It now looks like Iran launched a three-stage orbit-capable booster with a dummy satellite, but the U.S. reports it did not orbit a payload despite some Iranian claims to the contrary.

COMMENT: It does appear Iran is quite close to being able to orbit a small satellite, which matters for a couple of reasons. One is that any small satellite launcher is technically the close cousin of an IRBM (America's first launcher, the Jupiter-C, was a modified Redstone ballistic missile, and the Iranian launcher is a similar concept: an existing missile with upper stages). The other is that technology has advanced to the point where microspacecraft, either bought whole or constructed from commercially available components, can do economically and militarily important work in communications, Earth observation, and electronic intelligence, among other fields.

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