Updated: Jun 8
On April 22, 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran successfully launched its first military satellite, the Noor, into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The United States and allies such as the United Kingdom have repeatedly cited concerns with Iran's space program, declaring that rocket technology for space platform delivery and ballistic missile technology are extremely similar, and thus equally dangerous. Thus, Wednesday's launch is likely to be followed by an increase in tension between the isolated country and the west.
This is the first time the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has taken credit and responsibility for the launch of a space based military platform. In a statement, the IRGC announced the satellite had successfully reached an orbit nearly 264 miles above earth. From tracking systems, it appears as though the launch occurred at an IRGC installation near Shahroud, nearly 200 miles northeast of Tehran.
Space is not only the last frontier, but also an immensely important domain. Governments across the world rely on satellites in orbit for intelligence collection, communication, weather prediction, and navigation, and thus the success of their nation. Future warfare theorist Peter W. Singer from the New America Foundation correctly observed in a 2014 New York Times interview that the United States is the most powerful force in the history of mankind because of its ability to dominate space, “He who controls the heavens will control what happens in the battles of Earth.”
This Iranian launch is simply the continuation of an ever deadlier game of cat and mouse between Washington and Tehran, with either side refusing to blink. In 2018, the Untied States withdrew from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and slapped severe sanctions on Iran citing its failure to halt development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The United States and European nations further contend that Tehran's satellite launch violate international laws on ballistic missile development. In January of 2020, these tensions came to a head after the United States killed IRGC head Qassem Soleimani for his role in Iran's gray zone strategy.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.