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China’s Exploration Efforts June 11, 2013

Posted by George C. Marshall Institute in Uncategorized.
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China sent 3 astronauts to their experimental space laboratory this morning (see http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-latest-manned-space-mission-blasts-off-094410665.html).  

We discussed the implications of China’s space efforts on the U.S. at a forum last summer (see http://www.marshall.org/article.php?id=1110) as well as their military ambitions in space (http://www.marshall.org/article.php?id=1181).

Iran’s New Space Monitoring Facility June 11, 2013

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By John B. Sheldon, Ph.D., George C. Marshall Institute Fellow

Several reports, especially from RFE/RL and Israel’s Ha’aretz, appeared earlier this week on the unveiling of an Iranian space monitoring center located at Delijan, about 125 miles south of Tehran.

The facility was officially opened by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi on Sunday, June 9, 2013. During the ceremonies General Vahidi is reported to have said that, “[T]he base is aimed at securing the country’s space facilities and monitoring space objects especially satellites that pass overhead.”

General Vahidi is also reported to have said that Iran is ready to share data received at the Delijan facility with the space agencies of other countries, and that the new space monitoring site is now one of nine Iranian space facilities, including one based in Syria.

The U.S.-based Iranian expatriate news website, Payvand.com, has published a number of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) photographs of the facility and its official opening here. The facility has two electro-optical telescopes, a radio telescope, and radar to carry out its space monitoring mission.

There is good reason to question the sophistication of Iran’s declared space monitoring capabilities, especially since Tehran’s propaganda machine is prone to exaggerating its actual ability to carry out complex and difficult missions. That said, even relatively basic capabilities can provide the Iranians with good enough data about the timing and orbital tracks of high-resolution imaging satellites in low-earth orbit operated by other countries, to include the United States and Israel. Furthermore, Iran has demonstrated, in the face of tough sanctions and persistent sabotage efforts, a certain tenaciousness in the development of its nuclear, missile, and space programs. Over time analysts should not be surprised if the Delijan facility improves its capabilities and methods, and thus sophistication, and becomes a key part of an Iranian space situational awareness program that not only monitors Iranian satellites, but also provides the basis of a wider Iranian counterspace capability.