The latest Iranian space exploration development may have a significant impact on the threat posed by its nuclear program. The launch raises complex questions regarding the potential use of dual-use technology, which could lead to advancements in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. While the focus has primarily been on Tehran’s ability to weaponize uranium for a nuclear bomb, the country’s capacity to deliver or fire the weapon at a target is also crucial for nuclear weapons development.
Iran’s recent rocket launch, which carried a test living in a space capsule, indicates the country’s ongoing efforts to send astronauts into space. This follows a previous announcement ten years ago, in which Iran claimed to have sent two live monkeys into space and returned them to Earth safely. The current capsule reportedly reached an altitude of 130 kilometers, demonstrating Iran’s progress in human exploration.
Additionally, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has successfully launched multiple satellites into low orbit in recent years. However, concerns arise as the same technologies used for space launches could potentially be utilized for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches. If Iran aims to send astronauts into space, it will need to develop the skills necessary for ICBM launches and space re-entry.
While Iranian officials claim no connection between satellite launches and nuclear weapons capabilities, some have indirectly confirmed military links to the ostensibly civilian programs. Furthermore, Iran’s enrichment of uranium for potential nuclear bombs, the expulsion of critical IAEA nuclear inspectors, and the removal of surveillance cameras have raised international concerns.
As of now, neither Israel nor the US has responded to Iran’s recent space launch. This may be due to their focus on other regional conflicts. However, the lack of a response could potentially embolden Iran to accelerate its space program. Overall, the Iranian space exploration developments have raised significant global security concerns in the context of its nuclear program.