September 29, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Launches Satellite Using Ballistic Missile Technology

September 29, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Launches Satellite Using Ballistic Missile Technology

Latest Developments

The Biden administration expressed concern on September 28 over Iran’s successful launch of an imaging satellite a day earlier. The Qased rocket that launched Iran’s Noor-3 satellite into low earth orbit uses technology that is nearly identical to that of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) required to deliver a nuclear warhead. “We have long made clear our concerns about Iran’s space launch vehicle programs, that they provide a pathway to expand its longer-range missile systems,” said State Department spokesman Matt Miller. “Space launch vehicles incorporate technologies virtually identical and interchangeable to — with those used in ballistic missiles.”

Expert Analysis

“Iran continues to use its space program to grow the capabilities of its missiles and get around a self-imposed 2,000-kilometer range cap. The Qased’s launch is further proof of Tehran’s desire to develop a more reliable and ready ICBM capability. Just as strategic patience and sporadic sanctions did not stop Pyongyang’s long-range missile aspirations, they will also fail to halt Tehran’s missile march.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“No one should be under the illusion Iran has a civilian satellite program. The regime has an intercontinental ballistic missile program using satellite launches as a cover, and now, with billions of dollars being made available by the Biden administration, Washington is effectively subsidizing an ICBM program designed to put the U.S. homeland in Tehran’s crosshairs.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Iran’s Launch Vehicle Development

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force delivered the Noor-3 imaging satellite into orbit 280 miles above the Earth’s surface using a Qased space launch vehicle (SLV). The Qased, first launched in April 2020, is a three-stage rocket using a liquid fuel engine for its first stage and solid fuel motors for its second and third stages. Iran next tested the Qased rocket with its launch of the Noor-2 satellite in March 2022. The Qased’s development and testing indicate that Iran is working to develop an all-solid fuel rocket to create a better ICBM.

Tehran claims its space program is for civilian purposes despite its deployment by the paramilitary IRGC Aerospace Force rather than the Iranian Space Agency. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s annual threat assessment for 2023 indicated that Iran’s space launch vehicle testing would drastically shorten the time it would take for Iran to develop an ICBM.

UN Ballistic Testing and Proliferation Ban Expiring

The launch violates United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which bans Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The resolution’s prohibitions, including a ban on Iran’s missile exports, are set to expire on October 18. If the resolution is not renewed, Iran could make further progress legally toward an ICBM and export its ballistic missiles to clients such as Russia. According to Iranian state-affiliated media, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brig. Gen. Amir Hajizadeh said that the IRGC will launch two more satellites by the end of the year.

Arsenal: Assessing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities are a Growing Threat to Europe,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran’s Military Satellite Launch Requires U.S. Action,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Bradley Bowman


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Israel Military and Political Power