Iran may be preparing to launch a satellite into orbit, according to a report in the Jan. 29 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
The reported Iranian space launcher, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe to be a derivation of the Shahab 3 ballistic missile, has recently been assembled and "will liftoff soon" with a satellite, according to Iranian officials.
Western officials fear that the Iranian space vehicle could lead to upgrades in Iran's missile technology, eventually leading to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range capable of reaching Europe, Russia, China and India, the magazine reports.
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"A reconnaissance satellite of reasonable performance should weigh about 300 kilograms [660 lb.]," says Uzi Rubin, the former head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, in a report for The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Once Iran learns how to put 300 kilograms into earth orbit, it could adapt the satellite launcher into an ICBM that could drop more than 300 kilograms anywhere in the world."
Many experts believe that the development of a space launch vehicle could be a sign of growing technological cooperation between Iran and North Korea.
According to analysts at strategic think tank GlobalSecurity.org, the new Iranian modification could lead to an Iranian clone of the North Korean Taep'O-Dong 2C/3 ballistic missile that failed in a launch attempt from North Korea last July, the magazine reports.
The U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency has told the Congress that Iran may be capable of developing a 3,000-mile range ICBM by 2015, the magazine reports.