One of the knuckle-biting moments of the Cold War was the launching of Sputnik I by the Soviet Union:
The Sputnik launch changed everything. As a technical achievement, Sputnik caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard. Its size was more impressive than Vanguard’s intended 3.5-pound payload. In addition, the public feared that the Soviets’ ability to launch satellites also translated into the capability to launch ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the U.S.
Since that time the launch of a satellite by a country has been considered a harbinger of that country’s ability to hit any other country in the world with nuclear weapons, should they so desire. The development of nuclear weapons and space travel capability seem to go hand-in-hand or be closely related technologically. Of the countries known to posses nuclear weapons (U.S., Russia, China, Israel, India, Britian, France, and Pakistan) – only Pakistan does not have an active Space program.
So if the launch of a satellite by a country has been considered a harbinger of that country’s ability to hit any other country in the world with nuclear weapons,imagine how nuclear researchers around the world are feeling today:
Iran said on Tuesday it has launched its first home-built satellite into orbit, raising fresh concerns among world powers already at odds with Tehran over its nuclear drive.
“Dear Iranians, your children have put the first indigenous satellite into orbit,” a jubilant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on state television after a launch coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. “With this launch the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially achieved a presence in space,” he said.
The Omid (Hope) satellite was sent into space on Monday evening carried by the home-built Safir-2 space rocket, local news agencies reported. In the first foreign reaction, France expressed concern because the technology used was “very similar” to that employed in ballistic missiles. “We can’t but link this to the very serious concerns about the development of military nuclear capacity,” foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said in Paris.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the satellite programme could “possibly lead to the development of ballistic missiles.” “That’s of great concern to us,” he said. In London, British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell voiced “serious concerns” over the launch. “This test underlines and illustrates our serious concerns about Iran’s intentions,” Rammell said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office, adding that Britain was still carrying out technical analyses.
The launch comes at at time when Iran is defiantly refusing UN Security Council demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work. The West suspects Iran of secretly trying to build an atomic bomb and fears the technology used to launch a space rocket could be diverted into development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes and that it has the right to the technology already in the hands of many other nations including its archfoe the United States.
Ahmadinejad said the satellite carried a message of “peace and brotherhood” to the world and dismissed suggestions that Iran’s space programme had military goals. “We have a divine view of technology unlike the dominating powers of the world who have Satanic views,” he said. In Addis Ababa on the sidelines of an African Union summit, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the satellite would enable Tehran to receive “environmental data,” adding that “the technological capacity of Iran is meant to meet the needs of the country.”
Ahmadinejad has made scientific development one of the main themes of his presidency, asserting that Iran has reached a peak of progress despite international sanctions and no longer needs help from foreign states.
The state news agency IRNA said the satellite would take orbital measurements and would circle the Earth 15 times every 24 hours.
Iranian aerospace expert Asghar Ebrahimi said Omid has an elliptical orbit of minimum of 250 kilometres (156 miles) and maximum 400 kilometres.
The launch comes on the eve of a meeting in Germany on Wednesday of senior diplomats from six world powers who are are due to discuss the Iranian nuclear standoff, with Tehran still defying calls for a freeze on uranium enrichment.
Iran sent its first Safir rocket into space in August. It is about 22 metres (72 feet) long, with a diameter of 1.25 metres (a little over four feet) and weighs more than 26 tonnes .
Reza Taghipour, head of the Iranian space agency, said Iran would launch another satellite carrier by the end of the Iranian year on March 20, Fars said.
This is a disturbing development, to say the least. While the mathematics of orbital mechanics are largely known, putting together the pieces of actually launching a functional rocket is an extremely difficult process. In fact, in the history of rocket flight, I can’t recall a single instance where a country launched a missle into space the first time without several false starts or disasters along the way.
Except Iran. Hmmmmm . . .
I think it’s very likely Iran was getting their missle technology from someone who already had this technology. I also think it’s no coincidence that the payload size and orbital parameters of the Iranian missle closely parallel that of the original Sputnik launch vehicle.
Which means Vladimir Putin is likely involved.
Not a good thing.