Guest Blogger Parviz Tarikhi: Iran space development; to reach the zenith lets fly altogether as a Simorgh*

February 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Space Law Current Events | Leave a comment

Parviz Tarikhi ( is a space science and technology specialist in Iran majoring in radar remote sensing since 1994. He holds a PhD degree in physics focusing on microwave remote sensing. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) since 2000, including as Second Vice-Chair and Rapporteur in 2004-06 of the committee bureau. Since 2001 he has co-chaired Action Team number 1 of UNISPACE-III with the mission ‘to develop a comprehensive worldwide environmental monitoring strategy’. From 2004-07 he led the Office for Specialized International Cooperation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer who has made in the meantime years of research and study on the developments and status of space science and technology with a particular focus on Iran.

By the approval of the Iranian Administrational Supreme Council on 29 September 2010 the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) is annexed to Iran’s Presidency Institution, and consequently the activity of ISA under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was concluded after about 7 years.[1] This new administrational promotion is the indication of the significance of Iran’s space endeavor for the government. However, taking necessary actions in conformity with the legal and administrational requirements and obligations, and most importantly setting up a newer statute based on the new administrational changes to be approved by the Iranian Parliament is a must.[2] The new statute like the two previous statutes that was approved in 2005 and 2008 respectively [3] needs to clarify the relation between the space agency and Supreme Council of Space (SCS), which revived by the approval of the Expediency Council on 27 September 2008 [4], and redefine the functions and duties of ISA in the new position based on the aims and mandates of the SCS.

Following this annexation, the efforts have begun by the new authorities of ISA to portray a new configuration for the agency that would be crystalized by ISA’s new organizational chart being prepared for approval. It gives reportedly the highest significance to the technology development and research on the engineering of space systems including satellites, manned space flights, space probes, space-related sciences and ground-based launching platforms. The share for the development of the space technology applications and services is limited more than ever before and the specialized international cooperation as well as space law is not yet lucky enough to receive the priority it deserves based on the global norms. At a glance one dare say it that the agency is intended to be driven inspired by the demands and requirements initiated by the necessities of the sustainable development of the country and the nation. Space technology development disregarding the social needs for the rapid national development and the leap towards the goals designated by the development plans would be expensive and ambitious enough failing to draw the optimism and support of the public.

Since the successful launch of Iran’s first home-made telecommunication satellite Omid with Safir-2, the country’s first domestic Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) on 2 February 2009, Iran has started a new run to jump for designing, manufacturing and putting new satellites in orbit.[5] Although Omid was an experimental satellite with a 90-day mission for taking orbital measurements, the experience and knowledge gained through orbiting and operating it opened the door to set up more sophisticated systems carrying Earth observation apparatus, and communication and research tools.[6,7] Iran has begun practical experiments on life in space by developing a space bio-capsule in line with the plan of the country to send astronauts into space in 15 years. In 2010 Iran developed a more powerful launch vehicle named Simorgh (stands for Phoenix in Persian language) with the mission to carry the heavier satellites into orbit. Simorgh is a multiphase rocket with liquid fuel engines which are capable of putting the satellites up to 100kg to the orbital height of 500km with the speed of 7500m/s.[8,9] In addition to the development of stronger launch vehicle, the country has been witnessing a boom in designing and more or less developing new satellites listed as below.

Navid, a 40-kg cubic research microsatellite developed by the Tehran-based Elm-o-Sanat University (University of Science and Technology) with the Earth observation mission; it will orbit around the globe in an elliptic orbit of the height 375 km at the apogee and 250 km at the perigee.[8]

Tolou, the first domestic remote sensing microsatellite weighing 100kg planned to be launched with Simorgh Launch Vehicle with the mission to acquire the images of the land with 50m resolution; its image products will be applicable for synoptic land mapping, monitoring of water bodies and the environmental disasters, agricultural areas and forests, urban distribution, and cloud coverage observations.[8]

Mesbah-2, the improved version of Mesbah-1 satellite aimed for communications, data store-and-forward and navigation with the coverage area including Europe and America in addition to Iran itself.[8,10,11]

Besharat (stands for ‘Good News’ in Persian language), the satellite which will be developed with the leadership of Iran and jointly with Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and some Arab countries [12]

Fajr, a remote sensing satellite developed by the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) which is expected to be launched with Simorgh Launch Vehicle [10,11]

Rasad-1, a remote sensing micro-satellite that is jointly developed by MODAFL and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; it is expected to be launched with Simorgh Launch Vehicle.[13]

In addition to the above mentioned satellites there are some other ones about which the authorities talk not in detail but still very briefly. These include, (i) Ghaem and Iransat, two communication satellites that are in the process of development [14], (ii) AUTsat, a microsatellite developed by the Amir-Kabir University of Technology (former Poly-technique University of Tehran) [15], (iii) Muhammad-1, a satellite that is said to be jointly developed with the Islamic countries [16], and (iv) a satellite that Iran plans for manufacturing jointly with 9 other members of the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). [16]

The quantitative growth of the Iranian satellites developed after the launch of Omid in comparison to those which planned before it is estimated to be tripled approximately. Zohreh, Mesbah-1 and Sina-1 were planned for orbiting before the launch of Omid among which only Sina-1 was launched on 27 October 2005 leaving Iran as the 43rd country in the world to own a satellite in orbit.[17] In recent few years much of the state funds are allocated to persuade the academic and non-civilian sectors to put force jointly or individually on designing satellites and launchers/rockets. Rise in the fund allocation has led to quantitative increase of plans and projects for designing and manufacturing satellites which essentially requires concentrated policymaking, economic and efficiency caretaking of their missions and functions which consequently requires supervision and control of the national space agency under the auspices of SCS. Providing the possibility and benefiting the efficient contribution of all existing genuine and competent talents in terms of management and the science and technology development is the great necessity in this arena.

Iran’s space endeavor is a long lasting effort which background goes to decades ago. The country committed and started using space technology for purely peaceful, humanitarian and development means, which is apparent from the records and historic background.[18] Space technology applications like other strategic technologies are basically of dual use. It is up to us to make a selection, and either pave the way or place limitations and obstacles before each of these applications and orientations. It is more than wise to use such possibilities for the benefit of welfare and wellness of humanity and for its sustained development at the national and global level.[19] In the meantime, it should not be disregarded that the technical and scientific achievements and advancements in the subject field requires a high degree of expertise, capacities, abilities and comprehensive knowledge on it. Highly specialized and talented human resources must emerge in each country, while the attitudes and visions of the leaders and policymakers who also influence and contribute to the pace, progress and developmental objectives of such programs should not be ignored.[20] This latter is a fundamental factor in the progression of the space endeavor in each country including Iran. All legislative, administrational, managerial and executive efforts paly vital role in this connection while each individually or synergistically are affected by the attitudes and visions of the authorities and policymakers which could be hamstring, or encouraging on the contrary. As much as these visions and attitudes tend to realism and open-mindedness, and take the counter-bigotry and free-of-illusion orientation the steps and leaps in space technology development will be more successful and triumphant.


[1] ISA’s News Archive (Persian Version): Appointment of the in-charge of the presidency for the Iranian Space Agency by I.R. Iran President, Iranian Space Agency- Tehran, 19 October 2010, (accessed 2 February 2011)

[2] Tarikhi, Parviz: More significant role for Iran’s space administration, Karaj, Iran, 11 November 2010, (accessed 1 February 2011)

[3] Tarikhi, Parviz: Statutes of Iranian Space Agency (2005 & 2008), Journal of Space Law, USA, Vol. 34, No. 2, winter 2008, 15 pp., December 2008, (accessed 1 February 2011)

[4] Tarikhi, Parviz: Is there a Need for New Space Law? Tehran, 9 November 2008,  (accessed 2 February 2011)

[5] Fars News Agency: Iran Ready to Send 2 Satellites into Space in Future- Tehran, 5 February 2011,  (accessed 5 February 2011)

[6] Brown, Peter J.: Iran’s new satellite challenges China, Asia Times Online, Honk Kong, 10 February 2009,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[7] Tarikhi, Parviz: Pioneering Hope, Position Magazine, Australia, No.41, June & July 2009

[8] Noja News (Persian Version): Opening of the Space Technology Day and expose of the new generation satellites- Tehran, 3 February 2010,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[9] Wikipedia: Iranian Space Agency, (accessed 3 February 2011)

[10] Mehr News Online (Persian Version): Iran’s new satellite is launched by the end of year- Tehran, 14 January 2011,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[11] Mashregh news site (Persian Version): Iran’s space achievements- Tehran, 15 January 2011, (accessed 3 February 2011)

[12] Mehr News Online (Persian Version): Development of Besharat based on the Iranian capabilities- Tehran, 27 November 2010,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[13] Mehr News Online (Persian Version): Rasad-1 going to be launched by the end of year- Tehran, 25 September 2010,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[14] Mehr News Online (Persian Version): Launch of Rasad-1/Status of Tolou- Tehran, 7 July 2010,  (accessed 3 February 2011)

[15] Jam-e Jam Online news site (Persian Version): Iran in the progress route of science and technology- Tehran, 10 February 2009, (accessed 3 February 2011)

[16] Jam-e Jam Online news site (Persian Version): Iran envoys astronaut to space by 2020- Tehran, 5 October 2010, (accessed 3 February 2011)

[17] Tarikhi, Parviz: Iran’s Ambitions in Space, Position Magazine, Australia, No.35, June & July 2008

[18] Harvey, Brian; Smid, Henk; Pirard, Theo: Emerging Space Powers; the New Space Programs of Asia, the Middle East, and South America, Springer/Praxis, February 2010, pp. 254-284

[19] Davenac, Raoul & Nardon, Laurence: Le programme spatial iranien, Actuelles de l’ifri (institut français des relations internationales), Paris, France, mars 2009,    (accessed 4 February 2011)

[20] Tarikhi, Parviz: Iran’s space program; Riding high for peace and pride, Space Policy International Journal (Elsevier), Issue 3, Volume 25, August 2009, pp. 160-173 (DOI: 10.1016/j.spacepol.2009.05.010)

* Note: In the Iranian tradition Simorgh is a fabulous bird that flies above the clouds. The word of ‘Simorgh’ in Persian language is also expressed as ‘Si-morgh’ that means ‘thirty-birds’. There is a philosophical narrative about Simorgh and Si-morgh. Once a group of thirty different hungry birds that were flying over a field decided to land and take the seeds on the ground. They were unaware that a hunter had laid a trap for them and as soon as they landed and began to take the seeds the trap was wrapped up and they got caught. Being horrified each bird tried to release itself and flew up in the direction different from others. It was useless and they were unable to escape. The hunter saw them caught in the trap and rushed towards the trap. Time was scarce and the hunter was getting closer to the trap moment by moment, however the birds were flapping the wings to no avail. Finally one of the birds that was wiser than the others suggested that instead of flapping the wings individually and flying in different directions, all the thirty bird try to flap and fly up in one direction. The birds began to do so and altogether lifted the trap with themselves and flew to the sky and go farther and farther out of the reach of hunter. They were a group of thirty birds but unified and in unanimity became a Simorgh and overcame the hunter and removed the trap.


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