Ayatollahs in Orbit

Tehran is about to send its first satellite into space, says the Jerusalem-based Isracast.iran_sat.jpg

By the end of September a Russian Cosmos 3 missile will be launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome 800 km north of Moscow, carrying two Iranian satellites into orbit. Although the satellites are claimed to be for meteorological and experimental purposes, experts believe that one of them will possess surveillance capabilities allowing it to observe American and Israeli military facilities throughout the Middle East...The Iranian Satellite to be launched called the Mesbah, which literally means lantern, has been in the works for the last eight years and reached maturity after collaboration between Iranian and Italian engineers. The Italian company Carlo Gavazzi Space (CGS), who assisted in the Iranian space effort to develop the Mesbah also contributed extensive knowledge to its partners and as a result, Iranian officials have been quoted as being optimistic regarding their ability to independently launch more advanced satellites in the next several years.The 65-75kg Mesbah will, according official Iranian sources, be used as a tool for collecting data on ground and water resources and meteorological conditions, and will also be used to control power supply systems and pipelines. However, various intelligence sources report that the satellite will also have limited surveillance capabilities and will be used by Iran to gather intelligence information on neighboring countries including American bases in Iraq, the Gulf and Israel. The satellite is expected to remain in orbit for three years and some experts say it will be able to continue operations for up to five years. Along side the Mesbah, the Russian Cosmos 3 will reportedly launch a smaller Iranian satellite named Sinah-1. This 20kg domestically made satellite was meant to be launched using Iran's own launcher as a technology demonstrator, but for unknown reasons will eventually be launched using the Russian booster.Nations around the world have raised concern regarding the ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to acquire advanced military capabilities including independent satellite launching capabilities which are directly linked to the development of its ballistic missile program. Tal Inbar, senior research fellow at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, told IsraCast that the development of the Iranian space program will allow Iran to continue the development of its long-range ballistic missile program surpassing the watchful eye the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the organization in charged of preventing the proliferation of missile technology. Technologies that accompany the development of satellites such as micro electronics can also be used as a cover for the development of small size nuclear weapons which will fit the advanced version of the Shihab missile, says Inbar...
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