Iran’s successful launch of its first space rocket Feb. 25 made global headlines. Iran’s Space Research Center said the rocket returned to earth by parachute, and did from where in Iran it had been launched or where it landed. The space agency’s chief, Mohsen Bahrami, said the rocket was carrying “material intended for research created by the ministries of science and defense.” The state news agency IRNA today quoted Science and Technology Minister Mohammad Soleimani saying, “investment in space is very serious and requires time, but we are trying to speed this up.”
Iran first sent an Iranian Russian-made satellite into space aboard a Russian-made rocket in October 2005. The Sina-1 satellite was Iran’s first, and so far only, satellite put into orbit.
Despite protestations of peaceful purposes, the new launch comes as Iran’s nuclear ambitions dominates world news. On the day of the launch, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told IRNA his country “has obtained the technology to produce nuclear fuel and Iran’s move is like a train…which has no brakes and no reverse gear.” Deputy Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mohammadi was quoted as saying, “We have prepared ourselves for any situation, even for war.” (RFE/RL, Feb. 25)
With virtually no notice in the world press, on Feb. 11, Israel launched an Arrow anti-ballistic missile which successfully intercepted a target simulating an Iranian Shahab 3 medium-range rocket. It was the first such test conducted at night, and the first time that Israeli Air Force (IAF) personnel managed and conducted the whole interception process, which was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
But IAF personnel expressed concerns that Iran is developing manoeuvring capabilities for its Shahab missiles, which would make interception more difficult. According to Israeli intelligence sources, Syria, which recently tested its “Scud D” short-range ballistic missile, is developing manoeuvring capabilities for its “Scuds,” as well as seeking to acquire the Russian Iskander-E (SS-X-26). IAI said a newer interceptor version, M5, capable of better manoeuvring, will be tested in the coming months. (Jane’s Defense Weekly, Feb. 16)