Geopolitics of Iran’s Space Strategy

Iran's Space Strategy
Qaem-100 Iranian satellite launch vehicle during 20 January 2024 launch of Soraya satellite (Credits: Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Persian Files ISSN 2975-0598 Volume 21 Issue 1
Author: Silvia Boltuc

The global space sector is experiencing rapid and continuous growth. The objects being dispatched into our atmosphere comprise satellites, crewed spacecraft, probes, and space station flight equipment. Besides its groundbreaking research on habitable exoplanets, the space sector also offers essential services in the modern era, such as cellular connectivity, satellite imaging, and GPS technology.

The recent satellite launches at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan Province serve as evidence of Tehran’s progress in its 10-year space vision plan, aimed at fulfilling both civilian and military requirements.

Background information

On January 28th, 2024, Iran has successfully launched one satellite (Mahda) and two nano-satellites (Kayhan-2 and Hatef-1) using the Simorgh (Phoenix), its carrier rocket developed by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics.

The event followed the earlier launch of the Sorayya satellite, which marked the first time that Iran put a satellite in the 750-km orbit above the earth’s surface. Sorayya was launched into the space using Ghaem-100 satellite carrier built by the Aerospace Unit of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The IRGC launched the first Iranian military satellite, Noor-I, in April 2020, and Noor-II in March 2022.

The primary aim of these satellites is the evaluation of communication and geopositioning technology. As per official sources, the testing of cargo delivery to space will also include an assessment of its effectiveness.

The United States, Russia, and China are at the forefront of space exploration spending, with the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and India trailing closely behind.

Iran and the Space:
Geopolitical Analysis

Iran aims to bridge the gap with the world’s leading nations in the race for space dominance. The development of Tehran’s space sector will not only support civilian technology but also enhance its military capabilities.

Despite the current absence of legal frameworks governing space policies in international law, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have jointly denounced Iran’s recent launch of the Sorayya satellite utilising the Ghaem-100 Space Launch Vehicle (SLV).

The rationale behind this action is rooted in the perception of Western countries, who view the Iranian space program as a potential threat. Specifically, the SLV uses technology essential for the development of a long-range ballistic missile system, which could allow Tehran to launch longer-range weapons.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani stated that achieving scientific and research progress, including in aerospace is Iran’s definite and lawful right.

The principles of general international law apply in the realm of space. However, multiple treaties and conventions have been implemented to specifically address and govern the international exploration and utilisation of space, such as the Outer Space Treaty. This Pact provided the basic framework on international space law, covering legal foundations such as the peaceful use of space, the freedom of exploration of space, and the basic responsibility and liability of states for launching space objects.

Nevertheless, the notion of advocating for arms control in space is frequently regarded as contradictory in light of the actions and rhetoric exhibited by states possessing advanced space capabilities.

Unlike some other countries with satellites, the Iranian space program includes the active involvement of the Ministry of Defence. Nevertheless, Kanani highlighted the utilisation of peaceful technologies in scientific and research advancement, aligning with international standards and regulations.

Undoubtedly, the acquisition of Tehran’s satellites will enhance Iran’s military’s targeting capabilities and regional monitoring capacity.

Still, the Middle Eastern country is aligning itself with a growing number of nations aspiring to become space powers. As corporations assume the forefront in this emerging domain, the dynamics of space launches are undergoing transformation. When examining the cumulative number of objects launched into orbit by various nations, Iran does not even place within the top ten among these entities.

The spatial domain is increasingly being regarded as an extension of earth’s geography, with the United States, China and Russia emerging as the predominant contenders. The space has not only become central to communication but has been also the stage of new weapons’ tests.

Considering the lack of universally accepted regulations pertaining to this competition, which also encompasses the exploration for scarce resources such as rare metals and water, it is highly improbable for Iran to abstain from involvement in the upcoming phase of geopolitical rivalry.

While government funding remains the primary source of revenue for the space activities of leading actors, there is a rapid growth in investment from private enterprise. Hence, it is not surprising that the Iranian space program heavily relies on the IRGC and the Defence Ministry of Iran, given the country’s strategic response to sanctions, which involves a significant budget allocation to enhance deterrence capabilities.

Read more | Iran and the IRISL Group’s Crucial Role in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)


Policymakers must adjust to the ever-changing global order. Iran, a nation that prides itself on its military capabilities and technological advancements, despite sanctions and limited access to international expertise, refuses to be left behind in the space race. The space race, indeed, represents the last frontier in the geopolitical dynamics among major powers.

Nations seeking to enhance their nuclear capabilities will prioritise the procurement of helium-3, which can be allegedly utilised for nuclear fusion, generating greater energy output than nuclear fission with reduced levels of radioactivity. Alongside the discovery of rare minerals and water, the space will also offer lucrative opportunities such as tourism.

In the military field, the conflict in Ukraine has underscored the importance of satellites as crucial assets that could have a significant impact in a competition or even a war, necessitating the protection of these vital technologies against potential attacks.

Given these considerations, it is highly improbable that international actors would dissuade Iran from pursuing a more extensive role in space endeavours, whether it be for communication, scientific, or military purposes.

Furthermore, the attacks on Iran’s interests all over the Middle East in recent years, have demonstrated the crucial role of the surveillance and communication sector in the country’s regional strategy, which will greatly benefit from advancements in these areas. It is foreseeable that the future will witness the realm of space becoming a primary arena for rivalry between Iran and Western nations.

If you are interested in acquiring a deep understanding of the political and economic dynamics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we invite you to contact SpecialEurasia at Our team is prepared to assist you in evaluating the possibility of acquiring a carefully designed and specialized report that caters to your specific intelligence needs.

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