Blurring Lines Between Iran’s Civilian and Military Aspirations


In a move that further intensifies global concerns around Iran’s military advancements, Eisa Zarepour, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, has announced the successful launch of the Nour-3 imaging satellite by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace using the Qassed satellite launch vehicle. Despite the satellite’s purported aim to boost Iran’s communication infrastructure, especially in remote areas, the launch has heightened international anxiety.

The use of technology closely mirrors ballistic missile technology points toward Iran’s potential strategic intention of developing extended-range solid-propellant ballistic missiles alongside its advancing nuclear program. These advancements, in tandem, underline a growing threat that Iran might be inching closer toward the ability to deploy nuclear warheads using long-range ballistic missiles.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology. Zarepour declared (September 27) the successful launch of a Nour-3 imaging satellite by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace. Utilizing the Qassed (messenger) satellite launch vehicle (SLV), the satellite was positioned into orbit at 450 km. Zarepour said that Nour-3 is outfitted with “cutting-edge communication technology” and will significantly enhance Iran’s communications infrastructure, particularly in isolated areas.

Eisa Zarepour was one of seven Iranians designated (October 2022) for the shutdown of Iran’s Internet access and the continued violence against peaceful protesters in the wake of the tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly and died in the custody of Iran’s Morality Police.

In previous years, Iran launched the Nour 2 and Nour 1 satellites into orbit using the Qassed SLV. Further augmenting its space presence, Iran, as per Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, is slated to launch an additional two to three satellites into orbit this year.

On 8 March 2022, IRGC announced that it had launched a second military satellite called the Noor-2. Ali Jafarabadi, the IRGC’s space commander, was cited as saying the satellite was orbiting at an altitude of 500 km. The Noor-1 was successfully launched on 22 April 2020 also using the Qassed launcher.

The Nour-1 satellite and the Nour-2 were launched from the Shahroud facility in Semnan province using a Qassed SLV. This has evoked concerns, suggesting that the IRGC’s space program might be geared more towards developing launched extended-range solid-propellant ballistic missiles than purely satellite launches. Following the satellite launch of Nour-2, France, Germany, and the UK formally submitted a complaint to the UN Security Council. They argue that the launch violates Resolution 2231’s prohibition on Iran developing nuclear-capable missiles.

The concern about IRGC’s space program revolves around the technologies and methods it employs to launch satellites, similar to ballistic missile technology, such as propulsion systems, launch vehicles, and guidance systems. These shared technologies mean that advancements in satellite launch capabilities can directly translate to improvements in ballistic missile technology.

The Qassed satellite carrier, used by IRGC for satellite launches, is a concern because it resembles ballistic missile technology. The same launch vehicle can deploy satellites and deliver warheads, further blurring the line between civilian and military applications. The knowledge and infrastructure to build satellite launch vehicles could be repurposed to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. ICBMs.

The use of mobile launchers for deploying satellites is another area of concern. Mobile launchers are commonly associated with military applications, allowing for the rapid deployment and launch of missiles from unpredictable locations. This technology is not typically used for civilian satellite launches, raising suspicions about the true purpose of the technology.

As Iran strides in its nuclear program, the parallel development of long-range ballistic missile capabilities is a significant regional and international concern. This advancement enhances Iran’s capacity to launch missiles that can eventually carry conventional and potentially nuclear warheads.

​Iran Dossier Iran’s Nour-3 Satellite: A Leap in Communication or a Step Towards Enhanced Missile Capability? 

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