Iran’s Space Ambitions Ride on Safir
Asian Surveying and Mapping (ASM) Magazine, South Pacific Science Press International Pty Ltd, Australia, 22nd February 2008 online issue, feature article
Friday 22 Feb 2008
On 4 February, Iran successfully launched a sub-orbital rocket called Safir (Envoy) from its newly opened domestic launch site in the northeast of the country.
The payload that was launched by Safir sent real-time data back to earth from about 250 km.
The test was a major step forward in the country’s plans to launch a satellite from its own soil. Called Omid (Hope), it will be placed in a near-polar orbit satellite, at an altitude of 650 km and will pass over Iran six times every 24 hours.
Iran has pursued a space program for several years. The idea of using space technologies is as old as the time when Iran joined 17 other countries to establish the UN ad-hoc Committee for International Cooperation on Space in 1958, which later changed its name to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
In 2004, the Iranian Space Agency ‘was established, following a decision by the parliament on 10 December 2003.
The President of the republic chairs the Supreme Space Council.
Capacity building, research and exchange of experience are important aims of the program. In addition, the need to expand national capabilities in applications of technology is a significant driver of the national effort.
This expansion has been recognised in the country’s mid- and long-term plans, leading to the emergence of both Earth observation and satellite manufacturing industries.
ISA has conducted a phased series of exercises to build its capacity. Its first mission was, in co-operation with Italy, a small store and forward communication satellite called Mesbah (Lantern).
The first all-Iranian satellite, Sina-1, was launched by a Russian Kosmos-3M rocket from Plestesk to the altitude of 700 km in October 2005. It carried remote sensing and communications payloads.
Beyond Omid, Iran is also planning the Small Multi-Mission Satellite (SMMS), a joint venture in cooperation with China and Thailand that is mainly aimed at disaster and environmental monitoring.
It is a medium low earth orbit sun-synchronous satellite weighing 490 kg and to fly 650 km above Earth.
Further out, Iran’s engineers are working on four other missions called Zohreh, Pars, ZS4 and Sepehr that will expand the country’s space communications and Earth observation capability substantially.
In addition to the space segment, Iran has been developing its ground segment, with new facilities for communications and data gathering. New communications stations have been established at Boomhen, Asadabad and Isfahan.
The old Mahdasht Ground Receiving Station, where Iran used to receive Landsat data, is being developed to become the Mahdasht Space Centre in the near future.
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