France said today that Kavoushgar-1 (Explorer-1) space rocket launched by Iran on Monday was in fact a long-range missile not intended to deliver a satellite into space.
Although the terms missile and rocket are at times used interchangeably, but a rocket is normally a vehicle that carries a payload (like a satellite) into earth orbit or sub-orbit, but a missile is a weapon carrying a warhead (or warheads) for striking a target. A missile can also be launched into and travel through an orbit to reach its final destination, as is the case with long-rage ballistic missiles.
The French assertion that Kavoushgar-1 could have been a ballistic missile adds to the concerns raised by both US and Russia after its launch. Russia said the launch raised the suspicion that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon program.
French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said in Paris today that Iran’s new missile did not have “extra-atmospheric capabilities” as claimed and was a “further source of concern” [Reuters, 8 February].
The Iranians never said it was meant to go into space -- they said it was a sounding rocket intended for research for FUTURE satellite launches into space. See
The Iranians may have learned a lesson here. All technical presentations of aerospace endeavors that can in any way be linked to the nuclear program need to be placed inside a well thought out campaign with the Foreign Ministry.
A very important matter at hand for Iran is the nuclear program, and a crucial next step is the upcoming report by the IAEA. In hindsight, it may have been more prudent to schedule the Kavoushgar launch afterward.
Rockets, like nuclear power, are dual use. It can be expected that powerful adversaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran will always present such technical advances as cause for alarm. This is a natural product of any cold war.
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