Iranian Rocket Successfully Launches Omid Satellite

February 2, 2009

Publication Type: 

  • Policy Briefs

On February 2, Iran joined the exclusive club of countries that have succeeded in placing a satellite in orbit. Iran launched its Omid satellite atop a two-stage rocket, the Safir-2, from Iran's space center in the Semnan Province, southeast of Tehran. The launch has alarmed the world because the same rocket Iran used to propel its satellite could also deliver warheads over considerable distances. Iran has dismissed these concerns; Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that "Iran's satellite technology is for purely peaceful purposes and to meet the needs of the country."

There is some debate surrounding the technical specifications of the Safir-2, including the specific type of fuel used, and the extent to which Iran relied on foreign technology. The Safir-2 is reportedly about 22 meters long, has a diameter of 1.25 meters and weighs 26,000 kg. The Omid weighs approximately 25 kg. A nuclear warhead would weigh far more than the Omid. Private analysts estimate that the rocket could travel about 2,500 km if employed as a strategic missile. There is also a question about the accuracy of the rocket if used as a missile. Iran's smaller Shahab-3 rocket, on which the Safir-2's first stage may be based, is considered to have low accuracy as a missile.

Pictures of the Safir-2 prior to launch are available here.

Read reactions and analysis from around the world:

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James E. Cartwright suggests that we should worry about Iran's space program, despite the "rudimentary" technology used in the Omid launch, 2-10-09.

U.S. State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood acknowledges the continuing threat posed by Iran, 2-3-09.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier fears Iran's progress in missile technology, 2-3-09.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon comments on the international security implications of Iran's new satellite technology, 2-4-09.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "The Iranian satellite is a technological achievement for the Iranians and a first step towards proving their military and intelligence capabilities. This is another reason for community to tighten and increase sanctions against Iran." Yaakov Katz and the Associated Press, the Jerusalem Post, 2-4-09.

U.K. Minister for the Middle East Bill Rammell says: "This test underlines and illustrates our serious concerns about Iran's intentions [...] There are dual applications for satellite launching technology in Iran's ballistic missile program." Nasser Karimi, the Associated Press, 2-3-09.

Eric Chevallier, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said: "The launch of this satellite worries us. We can't help but link this to the very serious concerns about the development of military nuclear capability." Chevallier also noted the "strong similarity" between ballistic missile technology and the rocket used in the Omid launch. Valentina Pop,, 2-3-09.

The New York Times reports on the significance of Iran's first successful satellite launch, 2-3-09.

Arms Control Wonk explains the technology of the Omid satellite, 2-3-09.

Arms Control Wonk questions the use of a two-stage Safir missile in the Omid launch, 2-6-09. examines the Iranian satellite program, 1-27-09.