New alliances – Moscow is increasing its cooperation with Tehran in space exploration

According to TASS, Russia and Iran will continue and expand their cooperation in space research under the newly signed agreement.

Appropriate statement was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin during his latest visit in Tehran on November 2015 during the third meeting of Russian-Iranian high-level commission. According to Mr. Rogozin:

"Russia and Iran have fair prospects for cooperation in the studies of outer space...For instance, some of their programs envision cooperation in the field of remote sounding of the Earth's crust...we have the areas of cooperation with Iran as promising as satellite-assisted navigation and mapping. Russia and Iran have a good groundwork for acting together in this aspect."

It seems that Russia is continuing cooperation started in 1990 when SSR President,  Mikhail Gorbachev signed an agreement with Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Agreement was related with first joined Russian and Iranian mission to MIR station; it was not finalized due the collapse of Soviet Union. It is worth mentioned that Iran is ninth country in the world with capability of manufacturing own launch system and satellites. Iranian Space Agency (ISA - founded in 2004) send also in 2010 live animals into space and returned them to Earth, what places Iran as sixth country in the world with such possibilities. Iran is also one of 24 countries which founded United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 1958.

Iran designed independently two stage Safir SLV rocket. It was based on Shahab-3C medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM with range at 1280 km) which in turn was modeled on North Korean Nodong-1 missile. Safir is 22 m high with 1.25 m at diameter. Its mass is at 26000 kg and is able to reach altitude at 68 km.  Upgraded version of Safir, Safir-1B was able to reach orbit at 200-300 km with payload at 50 kg. Safir was utilized in February 2009 during launching Omid satellite to LEO. Next rocket is Simorgh SLV - designed for lifting heavier satellites with mass up to 60 kg for 500 km orbit. Rocket height is 77 m with mass at 77 tons.  First stage is powered by four main engines. Additional fifth engine is necessary for altitude control system. All engines are providing at start thrust at 1275 kN. In 2013 next heavier rocket was announced - Qoqnoos SLV. Iran is utilizing its launch system mainly for launching their satellites. They are mainly observation satellites like Rasad-1 or Fajr. But ISA ambition is manned space program - in 2010 President Ahmadinejad announced that goal for ISA is manned mission utilizing Iranian launch vehicle not later than on 2019. It will be hard mainly because of lack appropriate launch vehicle. Rockets designed in Iran are able to lift satellite but not anything more. Maybe that is why Iran is considering Russia as potential partner in manned space program. Soyuz spacecraft technology was probably sold to China during late nineties and maybe Iran is counting for technology transfer to push their space program forward.

Russia is strongly interested in looking for new customers for their launch services. Due the high costs of modernization of space industry factories and facilities (during years 2006-2009 it cost around $780 million) for approaching Angara rocket (described here), it is necessary to provide new income sources. According to Dmitry Rogozin:

"We've done test launches of a very powerful launch vehicle, the Angara, which may become the main type of rockets taking payloads into orbit...The launching of other countries' satellites makes up only 4% to 5% of the entire market of space services that Russia could offer worldwide..."

For Roscosmos, Iran is another stop after signing in Saudi Arabia agreement for cooperation in space exploration for peaceful purposes on June 2015. In addition to Russia, China is also interested in Iranian space program. Example of cooperation of Iran and China could be Environment-1 satellite launched with Long March 2C. According to some sources Iran was interested in 2008 in participating in Chinese manned space program. It seems that Russia, after investing funds in Angara and bothered with sanctions after Ukrainian crisis, is starting to seek new markets for their space industry extremely intensively according to rule that "enemy is growing on what we leave for him".

Sources:
http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-builds-space-program-saudi-arabia-iran-amid-roscosmos-struggles-1969236
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrunichev_State_Research_and_Production_Space_Center
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahab-3
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Space_Agency
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safir_(rocket)

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