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Guest Blogger Parviz Tarikhi: Is there a Need for New Space Law?

parvizParviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 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 conducted the Office for Specialized International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.

Following the approval of the Administrational Supreme Council in August 2007 and in line with the implementation of the IV Development Program of IR Iran a “Supreme Council of Education, Research and Technology” was established by merging the “Council of Sciences, Research and Technology”, “Supreme Council of Information Technology”, “Supreme Council of Communications”, “Supreme Council of Space”, “Supreme Council of Atomic Energy”, “Supreme Council of Communication Media Security”, “Supreme Council of Education and Training”, “Supreme Council of Educational Revolution Logistics”, “Supreme Council of Informatics”, “Supreme Council of Science Applications”, “Supreme Council of Biotechnology” and “Supreme Council of Standards”. However, the newly established Supreme Council were dissolved soon after in February 2008, which followed by the dissolution of the 12 merged councils. The functions of the Supreme Council of Education, Research and Technology were put on the newly set-up called “Science, Research and Technology Commission” under the Cabinet of IR Iran.

Decisions made by the councils which members were usually the members of Cabinet, Parliament and non-governmental organizations as well as the relevant experts, was effectual by the approval of the President of IR Iran however, the State believed that the councils were coining the regulations disregarding the role of the State, while it should be responsible for the approvals of those councils.

Dissolution of the Supreme Council of Space specifically urged the revision in the statute of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) to allow it for functioning according to the legislations and approved laws and regulations. As a result the Council of Ministers of IR Iran on June 15, 2008 passed the amendments to the statute of ISA approved in June 2005 which following the investigations of the Guardian Council of the Constitution of IR Iran led to final approval on July 2, 2008. In the new statute the supervision of the Supreme Council of Space on the activities and functions of ISA was cancelled. ISA consequently became an administration under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to report to the related Minister.

The Parliament of IR Iran considered the dissolution of the councils as illegal in continuation and decided to revive the dissolved councils however, the Guardian Council of the Constitution of IR Iran returned the approval of the Parliament for revision and amendments. According to the Constitution of IR Iran, if the Guardian Council of the Constitution of IR Iran object an approval of the Parliament and return it for revision, the Parliament will check it again. In case of dissatisfaction of the Guardian Council, the approval will be offered to the “Assembly for Distinguishing the Prudence of the Regime” for final decision. By the approval of the “Assembly for Distinguishing the Prudence of the Regime” on 27 September 2008 the State is mandated to revive the dissolved councils after 8 months since their dissolution.   

Based on the earlier approvals ISA was mandated to covers and support all the activities in IR Iran concerning the peaceful applications of space science and technology under leadership of a Supreme Council chaired by the President of IR Iran. The Council’s main goals included, policy making for the application of space technologies aiming peaceful uses of outer space, manufacturing, launching and use of the national research satellites, approving the space related programs of state and private institutions and organizations, promoting the partnership of the private and cooperative sectors in efficient uses of space, and identifying guidelines concerning the regional and international cooperation in space issues. To follow and implement the strategies set by the Supreme Council of Space, ISA affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was organized.

By reviving of the Supreme Council of Space the need for changing the statute of ISA seems to be mandatory. The statute should ratify the relation of the revived Supreme Council of Space with ISA and redefine the functions and duties of the Agency in the new configuration based on the aims and mandates of the Supreme Council of Space.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger, Parviz Tarikhi: Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station Verging into a Space Center

at 14:10 | Posted in: Guest blogger | Comments Off on Guest Blogger, Parviz Tarikhi: Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station Verging into a Space Center

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Parviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 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 conducted the Office for Specialized International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.

Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station that is currently affiliated with the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) and officially entitled Mahdasht Space Center is located approximately 65 kilometers west of Tehran with 42 hectares area. The station established in 1972. The activities and development of the station could be chronicled as below, however it should not be ignored that in each period the driving attitudes and visions of the authorities have influenced its progress and development indeed.

Period of 1972-1978: Launch of the United States Earth Resource Technology Satellite (ERTS-1) -which later became Landsat-1- in 1972 actually raised the attention and real interest in remote sensing technology in Iran and is considered as the start point for such the space related activities in the country. Soon after an office for data collection in the Budget and Planning Organization of the date established. Because of rapid developments and progress in the space technologies and remote sensing in particular, Iran was enthusiastically stepping forward in harmony with the global advancements in this connection. As a result, benefiting the supports from the United States of America (USA) Iran decided to proceed for direct acquisition of satellite data. USA therefore complied Iran’s request and it was agreed that Iran supply data to the 33 countries under coverage of Iran’s receiving antenna to be installed. In 1974 a contract was signed between Iran and General Electric Company of USA for installation and conducting a satellite data receiving station.

At the same time, under the Plan for Satellite Data Applications the remote sensing activities officially continued in the National Radio and Television Organization of Iran of the date. Through a feasibility study for site selection, the current site of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station at Mahdasht (formerly named Mard Abad) of Karaj was distinguished suitable for establishing the station for direct satellite data receiving. The installation process began in 1976 and two phases including tracking and data acquisition completed and operationalized by 1978 while three full coverage of Landsat satellite data of Iran was acquired and archived by the station. 

 

According to signed contract between Iran and the US General Electric Company, and based on the global common procedures for satellite data acquisition in USA, Canada and some other countries five phases were planned for set-up in Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station as follows:

  • First Phase, including installation and operationalizing the facilities for tracking the Earth resource satellites and direct data acquisition from those satellites  
  • Second Phase, including installation and operationalizing the facilities for recording and data correction
  • Third Phase, including installation and operationalizing the facilities for analysis and data processing
  • Fourth Phase, including installation and operationalizing the facilities for data management
  • Fifth Phase, including installation and operationalizing the facilities for data printing, proliferation and production

The advent of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978 urged rapid quit of the US contractor and suspension of the project implementation following which the management and coordination of the plan was put on Iran.    

Period of 1978-1991: Change in the visions and emerging new managerial attitudes because of the Islamic Revolution in Iran put the plans for development of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station and continuation of its activities in a long-lasting ambiguity. The experts, engineers and even the mid-rank managers of the station began the efforts for saving it and justifying the top authorities and decision-makers of the importance and necessity for continuation of the work of such the station and the role that remote sensing and other space technologies can play in informed management and control of the resources and available potentials for development of the country. Management of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station was shifted from the National Radio and Television Organization to the Budget and Planning Organization again. The main and considerable success for the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station in this period that was realized in light of the efforts and work of the experts and engineers of the station is as follows:

·      Operationalizing and conducting the installed facilities for direct data acquisition from meteorological NOAA satellites series

  • Training the experts and technologists of the user organizations and institutes throughout the country for transferring the technology of satellite applications
  • Installation and operationalizing the second, third, fourth and fifth phases of the station for data production and proliferation 

Production and availability of the full coverage of satellite data of Iran acquired and archived by the station provided the possibility for access to the satellite data of Iran for implementing different projects and plans around the country and holding workshops for transferring the knowledge and expertise of satellite data applications.  

Period of 1991-1996: In line with the efforts made by the experts for development of remote sensing technologies throughout the country in the previous period, some commitments officially made for changing the existing situation and transition from the Plan for Satellite Data Applications and further institutionalizing of the remote sensing activities. In 1991 the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IR Iran) passed the law for transferring from the Plan for Satellite Data Applications to the state-run firm of the Iranian Remote Sensing Center (IRSC). According to the approval IRSC became affiliated to the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone (MPTT) of the date. The latter changed to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology according to the approval of the Parliament of IR Iran on 10 December 2003.   

Period of 1996-2002: Approval of the law for changing the Plan for Satellite Data Applications to the state-run firm of IRSC caused some legal problems for IRSC in terms of securing its financial sources and inability for developing its plans and programs. The authorities decided to downsize IRSC and confined the activities of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station that finally led to suspension of the activity of the station temporarily. However, before the suspension, the activities of the fifth and first phases including data production and proliferation, and direct data acquisition from meteorological satellites continued in its lowest level.     

Period of 2002-date: Administrational and organizational changes in MPTT and its transition to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology followed by the establishment of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) in February 2004. ISA covered officially, according to its establishment law, all the remote sensing activities throughout the country. Consequently the activation of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station and its revival was highly considered by the authorities. Reconstruction and operationalizing of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station practically began in 2003. In continuation all the active receiving facilities of ISA in Saadat Abad headquarter in north of Tehran translocated gradually to the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. New specialists as well as staff have been employed. Although the antenna for receiving from Landsat has been abandoned, other facilities for receiving from new generation satellites including TERRA-MODIS, IRS and NOAA continues and the plans for receiving from other satellites is in the way. This all is in line with the plans for concentrating the remote sensing activities of ISA in Mahdasht Station and developing it to become the Mahdasht Space Center in the near future. The site will comprise of the most comprehensive and multi-task ground space complexes, laboratories as well as work, living and leisure facilities for the Iran’s space science and technology specialists, scientists and officials.

 

 

Guest Blogger M.V. “Coyote” Smith: Words Mean Things

M.V. “Coyote” Smith is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force serving on active duty as a PhD student of strategic studies at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.  Most recently he served as the Chief of “Dream Works,” which is the Future Concepts shop in the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office.  Dream Works discovers, develops, and advocates, future concepts and promising technologies to advance the art of spacefaring across the security sector.  He was the director of the Space-Based Solar Power Study, and served as a Visiting Military Fellow at National Defense University.  He has served in various flying, space, and missile assignments and as an instructor at the USAF Weapons School.  He was Commander of the 321st Missile Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne Wyoming, where his unit was recognized as the “Best ICBM Squadron in Air Force Space Command.”  He holds four masters degrees in various disciplines.  During Operation ALLIED FORCE he served in General Michael Short’s Combined Forces Air Component Strategy Cell and on the Guidance, Apportionment, and Targeting Team.  During Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, he served at USCENTCOM Headquarters as a strategist on General Tommy Frank’s staff and in the Space and Information Operations Element.  He later served as the chief air and space power strategist in the Pentagon’s Strategic Planning Council during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. [The opinions expressed herein are offered for academic discussion and are those of the author alone.  They do not represent the official policies or opinions of any department, office, or agency within the U.S. Government.] 

The 2008 National Defense Strategy states with regard to fighting terrorism: “Victory will include discrediting extremist ideology, creating fissures between and among extremist groups and reducing them to the level of nuisance groups that can be tracked and handled by law enforcement capabilities.

As a person who has served in the armed forces of the United States, this makes perfect sense to me.  This is a clear and unambiguous policy/strategy statement which I fully support consistent with the service member’s oath of office and the laws of armed conflict.  I like it because I believe it is very desirable to transform violent transnational groups in such a way that they can be managed by constabulary rather than martial means.  In other words, fight them with law, not bullets and bombs.

I suggest for discussion here that while this passage is appropriate for its intended military audience that it may not be appropriate for civilian audiences around the world who will read the source document and formulate opinions about what is said therein, and about what type of people we are.  Words mean things.  Unfortunately, words mean different things to different people and communities.

It concerns me that others outside our military establishment will dissect this passage and think the following (or worse):

–      ” Victory…”

o      A very imprecise term that is open to endless interpretation

o      It is at best a nebulous term that is often associated with crushing an enemy and imposing one’s will in very harsh terms

–       “…will include discrediting extremist ideology…”

o      Who decides what ideologies are extreme?

o      Discrediting ideologies sounds rather undemocratic and unenlightened

o      Is religion on the hit list?  Political parties?

o      There must be some limitations to this, but none are suggested here

–      “…creating fissures between and among extremist groups…”

o      This might be interpreted as undoing social order within another state or culture

o      Is there a type of “social collateral damage” associated with this?

–      “…and reducing them to the level of nuisance groups…”

o      So, break them up from organized armies into disorganized street gangs.  What will be the local reaction?

o      What is the method of reduction?  Violence?

–      “…that can be tracked and handled by law enforcement capabilities.”

–      This requires broad international cooperation and capital investment

–      Who will pay for the involvement of local law enforcement, courts, and prisons to manage transnational terrorists within one’s border?

–      Will this solution be forced on other states regardless of sovereignty?

Another thought comes to mind:  In the West there is a clear distinction between the martial and the constabulary communities.  This is most often not the case in the developing world.  The rule of law is enforced by men with guns, and in the developing world where terrorist groups are predominantly found, there are very few separate and independent police systems–they use their armies as policeSor they use those that others would label as the “terrorists” themselves!

Let’s recall the oft cited quote, “One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.”  The issue is open to interpretation.  I must admit, I am confused by groups like the Hamas and Hezbollah.  Sometimes they seem like terrorists.  Sometimes they seem like armies, branches of government, or even political parties.  Quite honestly, I am often lost in the rhetoric.

We must be careful with our rhetoric because we broadcast it to the world.  We do not want to be perceived as bellicose bullies because that undermines what Joseph Nye calls our “soft power,” or our attractiveness in the international community that makes others want to emulate our behavior or follow our lead. 

The passage above may be an instance where the language could be softened for public consumption and still communicate the same thing to its intended military audience.  Here is how I re-wrote it to make it more acceptable to foreign audiences:

“Transnational violence by non-state actors shall be mitigated through policies that diffuse underlying tensions to reduce the size of disaffected groups, and through the use of collaborative international information networks that enable law enforcement to manage potentially violent individuals and groups according to local and state laws.”

 

What do you think?  Is this better or worse?  Keep in mind that there is also a problem with being what others might fairly call “politically correct.”  That approach may also be misinterpreted.

Perhaps the military should avoid the risk of compromising our national soft power by keeping such documents as the National Security Strategy classified and make it unavailable for public viewing.  Invariably such a document discusses unsavory topics and can easily become an unintended lightening rod for foreign animosity.  However, I am convinced that it is best to keep publishing such documents because the transparency we provide in such documents helps alleviate fear of the unknown in the minds of those who might compete with America in any number of ways.  When we think of the Eisenhower administration’s efforts to establish Open Skies with the Soviets to alleviate our fear (paranoia?) of the unknowns regarding the Soviet nuclear arsenal, this point becomes crystal clear.  I buy it.  Do you?

Nonetheless, the authors, editors, and reviewers of documents that are written for public release need to be mindful of the words they use, because words mean things.  In fairness, the authors of our 2008 National Defense Strategy did a solid job writing to their intended audience.  These are hard documents to write because the number of offices and agencies that review, edit, and provide comments is almost incomprehensible.  However, it is the unintended audience that I am thinking about.  Our national soft power is a valuable commodity that is not easily repaired if it is compromised.  We must avoid raising concerns within the citizenry and security communities of other states when such is not warranted.

We often think of our security community only in terms of their being the custodians of our national hard power for warfighting that political leaders use to secure our national interests.  I believe we need to expand our thinking in an new direction appropriate for the 21st Century.  Our security community must be not only the guardians of our nation’s hard power military capabilities, but also as the protectors of our national soft power as well–in ways consistent with their lawfully conferred roles and responsibilities.

I’ve become much more aware of the words I use in public and in official documents.  I’m thinking of those unintended foreign audiences much more now than before.  Sometimes conveying the real meaning of what we are trying to say demands that we use softer language than found in our common military or other professional vernaculars. 

What do you think?

Guest Blogger, Victoria Samson:Space-based missile defense: Yes? No? Maybe so?

 

Victoria Samson

Victoria Samson

By Victoria Samson, senior analyst for the Center for Defense Information

Victoria Samson joined the Center for Defense Information in November 2001. Her areas of interest include missile defense, nuclear reductions, and emerging weapons technologies. Samson, the author of numerous op-eds, analytical pieces, journal articles, and electronic updates on missile defense and space security matters, provides an objective assessment of U.S. policy. Prior to coming to CDI, Samson was the senior policy associate at the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, a consortium of arms control groups in the Washington, D.C., area. She previously worked as a subcontractor on war-gaming scenarios for the Missile Defense Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence. Samson has an M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She also holds a B.A. in political science with a specialization in international relations from UCLA.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA)’s controversial space-based missile defense program appears to have made it through Congressional debates over Fiscal Year (FY) 2009’s defense budget.  While the Senate-House defense authorization agreement (which officially needs to be approved by the House and Senate individually) explicitly denied the $10 million requested for a Space Test Bed in FY 09, the appropriations’ continuing resolution bill seems to have found a work-around for that.  True, the $10 million was zeroed out, but $5 million was put back, ostensibly for what the appropriators called “Space-Based Interceptor Study.” This $5 million is provided “to support the study outlined in section 236 of S. 3001, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009.” 

Adding to the uncertainty is that Sec. 236 is titled “Activation and deployment of AN/TPY-2 Forward-based X-band Radar,” which has nothing to do with space-based interceptors.  Instead, it is likely that the appropriators meant to refer to Sec. 232 of the authorization bill, which asked for an “Independent Study of Boost-Phase Missile Defense.”  The authorizers listed the systems that should be examined as part of this study: namely, the Airborne Laser and Kinetic Energy Interceptor, MDA’s two competing programs working toward becoming the boost phase interceptor segment of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system. Space-based interceptors aren’t mentioned at all in this section, unless you count the third option given to be included in this study:C) Other existing boost-phase technology demonstration programs.” 

The Space Test Bed’s raison d’etre was to be a proof-of-concept for space-based interceptors used as part of MDA’s boost phase capabilities.  The trouble is, this is not an existing program, unless MDA’s got something tucked away we don’t know about.  It definitely has big plans for the program, though. In the budget justification documents released with the request back in February, MDA indicated that it hoped to spend $268.3 million on the Space Test Bed through FY 2013.  Funding for the Space Test Bed would be the first time the United States has explicitly spent money on a dedicated space-weapons program since 1993.

Links:

The Authorization.

The Line item funding.

The Appropriation: House Explanatory Statement on the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations (CR) Act of 2009 (September 23, 2008).

 

Guest Blogger Parviz Tarikhi: New Statute for ISA: more confinement or more freedom?

Parviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 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 conducted the Office for Specialized International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.

The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) was established on February 1, 2004 according to the Article 9 of the Law for Tasks and Authorizations of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology passed on December 10, 2003 by the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which received the approval of the Guardian Council of the Constitution of IR Iran on June 18, 2005. The Guardian Council’s main task is monitoring and control of the consistency of passed laws by the Parliament with the Islamic laws and regulations.

Based on the approved statute ISA mandated to cover and support all the activities in IR Iran concerning the peaceful applications of space science and technology under leadership of a Supreme Council of Space chaired by the President of IR Iran. The Council’s main goals included policy making for the application of space technologies aiming peaceful uses of outer space, manufacturing, launching and use of the national research satellites, approving the space related state and private sector programs, promoting the partnership of the private and cooperative sectors in efficient uses of space, identifying guidelines concerning the regional and international cooperation in space issues. To follow and implement the strategies set by the Council, ISA affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in the form of an autonomous organization, was organized. The President of ISA held the position of the Vice-Minister of Communications and Information Technology and the secretariat of Supreme Council of Space at the same time.

ISA continued implementing its tasks and duties under supervision of the Supreme Council of Space until when the government decided to merge the supreme councils according to the approval of Administrational Supreme Council in August 2007 and in line with the implementation of the IV Development Program of the country. The “Supreme Council of Education, Research and Technology” was established by merging the “Council of Sciences, Research and Technology”, “Supreme Council of Information Technology”, “Supreme Council of Communications”, “Supreme Council of Space”, “Supreme Council of Atomic Energy”, “Supreme Council of Communication Media Security ”, “Supreme Council of Education and Training”, “Supreme Council of Educational Revolution Logistics”, “Supreme Council of Informatics”, “Supreme Council of Science Applications”, “Supreme Council of Biotechnology” and “Supreme Council of Standards”. However, the new Supreme Council of Education, Research and Technology was dissolved soon after in February 2008 and its functions were put on the newly set-up “Science, Research and Technology Commission” under the Cabinet of IR Iran.

Change in the status of the Supreme Council of Space urged the revision in the statute of the Iranian Space Agency to allow it for functioning according the legislations and approved laws and regulations. In this connection the Council of Ministers of IR Iran on June 15, 2008 approved the amendments to the statute of ISA approved in June 2005 which following the investigations of the Guardian Council of the Constitution of IR Iran led to final approval on July 2, 2008.

The most important change in the new statute in comparison to the former one is that the supervision of the Supreme Council of Space with the leadership of the President of IR Iran has been cancelled. As a result the Agency is only an administration under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that reports to the related Minister. It is indeed the indication of the limitation and confinement for the Agency albeit the new statue provides the Agency with more financial authorization to focus and regulate its efforts for institutionalization of space activities and benefiting the potentials and available sources to reach its goals. The new statue moreover authorizes ISA to proceed for establishing space research centers and firms with the endorsement of the Council for Development of Higher Education. This task was not included in the older statute of ISA approved in June 2005. Also authorizing the Iranian Space Agency according to new law to receive the approved tariffs for offering the space services charges the Agency to act based on the rates approved by the Cabinet and settle the funds to the state public revenue account. Furthermore, in line with the Article 68 of the Law for Management of Country Service approved in 2007, ISA in coordination of the Presidential Deputyship of Management and Human Assets Development is authorized to make necessary superior payments with the endorsement of the Cabinet to draw and retain appropriate human resources for the specialized and managerial positions.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger Parviz Tarikhi: International Cooperation, Vital for Iran’s Space Program

at 10:07 | Posted in: Guest blogger | Comments Off on Guest Blogger Parviz Tarikhi: International Cooperation, Vital for Iran’s Space Program

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Parviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 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 conducted the Office for Specialized International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.

Iran’s space program is advancing expeditiously. It is mainly backed by the available potentials and scientific and technical expertise that is gained in course of the decades of work and enthusiasm. As one of the founding members of COPUOS in 1958, Iran joined the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat) thirty-eight years ago in 1970 and also involved in installation and use of the Standard A Station in Asad-abad, Hamedan. However, it was the launch of United States ERTS -which later became Landsat-1- in 1972 that indeed spurred real interest in remote sensing and space technologies in the country. Iran built a facility at Mahdasht, 65 kilometers west of Tehran, to obtain remote sensing imagery from the satellite. Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station was considered as one of the major few sites around the world for data acquisition from Landsat. It is indeed a reality that establishment of the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station for Landsat data acquisition was the first cooperation program between USA and Iran on space technology. Almost all of the old employees of the Iranian Remote Sensing Center (IRSC), the majority of them are presently retired, remember the time when they were very happy and proud of working in a center which functions and activities was unique around the world and was limited to only few sites.

The IRSC operated the facility. It was established to collect, process, and distribute relevant imagery products to users throughout the country for resource planning and management. Over the years it supplied data to assist in identifying areas for development. It enabled scientists to identify areas prone to earthquakes, floods, landslides and other natural disasters and threats. The center was used to investigate greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the large urban areas, and to monitor wetlands, inland water basins and the environment of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

In February 2004, the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) was established, with a mandate for all civilian applications of space science and technology. That was a long and practical step forward not only towards concentrating the country’s efforts in advancing relevant science and technology in effective use of outer space for peaceful purposes but also to enhance the cooperation at the international level for this very well deserved purpose. Since then the activities and functions of IRSC has been covered by the newly established ISA.

Promoting the applications of space science and technology for peaceful purposes is both a vital part of Iran’s current plan and very essential part of its strategy. This includes close attention to the important concepts such as public awareness, capacity building, research and exchange of experience simultaneous with the expansion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in regional and global levels. In addition to Iran’s efforts towards such activities the need to expand national capabilities in application of technology is always felt. This expansion has been recognized in the country’s mid and long-term plans leading to emergence of Earth observation and satellite manufacturing industry in Iran. In light of continuous capacity building and development of expert human resources and scientists in recent few decades development of Omid, Sina-1, Mesbah, SMMS, Pars (Sina-2), Sepehr and ZS4 are the practical achievements for the country. Sina-1 is the only operational Iranian satellite in orbit that is the result of bilateral cooperation between Iran and the Russian Federation, while Omid is considered the country’s indigenous satellite planned to be launched in the near future.

In addition to space segment, Iran has been developing throughout the country its ground segments and facilities for communications and data acquisition since long ago. Boomhen, Asadabad and Isfahan are the ground stations established mainly for communication purposes while the old Mahdasht Ground Receiving Station which mission was receiving data from Landsat three decades earlier is being developed to become the Mahdasht Space Center in the future. Other ground stations have also been established for receiving remote sensing data managed and controlled by the private sector and universities.

“According to the Fourth Five-Year Development Plan of the country [2005-2010] US$422 million is allocated for space science and technology development,” says Muhammad Suleimani, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology. “Space science and technology could lead to facilitate and accelerate communications, saving expenses, time and increasing the efficiency, and forecasting and mitigating damages caused by disasters”, he adds, and continues, “Iranian government in its 10-year plan aims at providing the software and hardware and creating the infrastructure for attaining the capability and capacity in design, manufacturing, test, launch, operationalizing and control of the satellites. Increasing public awareness, training and education of expert human resources, research on new technologies, benefiting the domestic potentials and developing the international cooperation are the strategies of the plan in space domain”.

ISA since its establishment has given the highest priority to the international cooperation that is in continuation of the country’s policy for active international cooperation in space applications since few decades earlier. It has been used as a vehicle for Iran’s diplomatic engagement with the world community. ISA used its position on the UN’s Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to contribute to the third UN International Conference on Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE-III). Iranian officials have chaired an action team on the development of a worldwide comprehensive strategy for environmental monitoring and taken part in the development of the UN Space-based Platform for Disaster Management (SPIDER) locally. At a regional level, Iran actively cooperates with the UN Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and in particular with the Regional Program on Space Technology Applications (RESAP). Cooperative plan for the establishment of a Center for Informed Space-based Disaster Management and an affiliated research center have been advanced.

The country is a member of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) under the initiative of the Multilateral Cooperation on Space Technology Applications in Asia and the Pacific (AP-MCSTA). It also provides funding for the organization, along with China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Peru.

Investing in space is expensive. It can only be justified in Iran since all aspects of the country’s space program are integrated into the social, economic, educational, technical and political life of the nation. Stepping forward in this important way requires international cooperation and collaboration as the main requisite for the success of such the endeavor.

GUEST BLOGGER: Parviz Tarikhi on the New Iranian Space Law

Parviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) 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 conducted the Office for Specialized International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.
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by Parviz Tarikhi, guest blogger

The important role of space science and technology in the destiny of humankind, as well as its immediate and continuous impact on sustainable development of various aspects of societies, is evident. It is because of this vital reason that Iran joined the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) as one of its first 18 members in 1958. In recent decades this was followed by intensive activities in this field including establishment of research centers and several academic aerospace institutions. However, the increasing demand in this respect was felt by the authorities that led to the final approval of a bill submitted by the Government to the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran to establish a new regime for outer space issues. After necessary evaluation the final approval was issued by the Parliament in the form of new law on 10 December 2003. It received the approval of the Guardian Council of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 18 June 2005. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran officially took the first step in implementing the new law on 1 February 2004 by assigning the first President of a new establishment named the Iran Space Agency (ISA). The new Agency is now on the way towards establishing its organizational structure. To continue further development and implementation of the statutes and bylaws of the Iranian Space Agency, the Council of Ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran approved amendments to the existing law on 15 June 2008. That was followed by the investigations of the Guardian Council and led to final approval on 2 July 2008.

These actions are believed to be a long and practical step forward not only towards concentrating the country’s efforts in advancing relevant science and technology for effective use of outer space for peaceful purposes but also to enhance Iran’s cooperation at the international level for such important purposes.

ISA authority includes and supports all the activities in the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the peaceful applications of space science and technology under the leadership of the Supreme Council chaired by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The relevant core part of the approved bill is as follows:

“Aiming at applying space technology and peaceful uses of outer space, and protecting national interests and sustainable exploitation of space science and technology for economic, cultural, scientific and technical development of the country, the Space Supreme Council with the leadership of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is established. The Council’s main goals include,

I. Policy making for the application of space technologies aiming peaceful uses of outer space
II. Policy making in manufacturing, launching and use of the national research satellites
III. Approving the space related programs of state and private institutions and organizations
IV. Approving long and short-term programs of country’s space sector
V. Promoting the partnership of the private and cooperative sectors in efficient uses of space
VI. Identifying guidelines concerning the regional and international cooperation in space issues and clarifying the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the above-mentioned bodies”

To follow and implement the strategies authorized by the Space Supreme Council, the ISA is affiliated with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. But it is organized in the form of an autonomous organization. The President of ISA holds the position of the Vice-Minister of Communications and Information Technology. The secretariat of Space Supreme Council is based in the ISA, and the President of the ISA acts as the Secretary and Member of the Space Supreme Council at the same time.

Guest Blogger: Update on the Current Status of Japan’s Pending Space Law

By Hiroshi Kiyohara, Guest Blogger

The 169th ordinary Diet session opened on Jan. 18, 2008, only three days after the 168th extraordinary Diet session drew to a close.

Despite the fact that the extraordinary session was extended twice, the bill “Japan’s Fundamental Act of Outer Space” was left unacted upon. The deliberation of this bill has been carried over to the new session which has a 150-day term. Why does it take so long time to debate and enact the bill? It is not because the bill itself has some problems, but because our country faces political instability. Passing legislation has become very tough for the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito ruling bloc since the House of Councilors election last July. On this election, the opposition camp scored a major triumph and took control of the chamber. Due to this, it is unclear whether the pending space bill will pass the Diet soon or stay up in the air. I personally have a hope that it will become law around this June.

GUEST BLOGGER Hiroshi Kiyohara:Japan’s proposed law would lift the “peace purposes only” limitation on

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In my last post on December 2, I hopefully said that a bill, “Japan’s
Fundamental Act of Outer Space,” would be enacted next spring or summer at
the latest. How would this legislation affect Japanese policies and measures
concerning exploitation of outer space?

One of the bill’s centerpieces is to lift the ban on using space technology
for military purposes, as long as the purposes are self-defense. In 1969,
Japan’s Diet adopted unanimously the parliamentary resolution that provided
Japan’s space program was only for peaceful purposes. The word
“peaceful purposes” was strictly interpreted to mean that Japan could use
and exploit outer space only for civilian purposes, i.e., “non-military”
purposes. Since then, the Japanese government has maintained this limitation
and refrained from using space even for national security or self-defense.
However, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is now eyeing a
fundamental shift in the country’s space policy. They say that the current
restriction has impeded Japan’s use of space for homeland security
objectives and delayed its industrial development of space technology. For
this reason, the LDP is aiming to revise the 1969 parliamentary resolution
with the new proposed law.

The proposed law would allow the Japanese government to use and exploit
outer space for national security and self-defense purposes as well as
civilian purposes. For instance, it would clear the way for Japan’s
Self-Defense Forces to launch military satellite, such as a high-resolution
reconnaissance satellite to gather intelligence on North Korean ballistic
missile deployments.

Some might have a fear that the bill can be a break from the provision
regarding the absolute requirement for space to be used for peaceful
objectives that was affirmed in the Space Treaty of 1967. However, this is
not the case. I will discuss this important issue in my next post.

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Hiroshi is an attorney admitted in both the United States (New York and California) and Japan. He served as an assistant judge for Tokyo District Court, and currently work as the chief attorney for Musashi International Law Office in Tokyo. His degrees are a B.A., Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; J.D., the Institute of Legal Research and Training, Tokyo; and, LL.M., Golden Gate University Law School.

GUEST BLOGGER Hiroshi Kiyohara: Japan’s New Space Law Being Hamstrung by Political Turmoil

by Hiroshi Kiyohara
The Japanese H-II A rocket was launched on September 14, and placed Japan’s first lunar probe, “Kaguya” in orbit. The lunar explorer went into a circular observation orbit 100 km above the Moon in late October and it successfully started transmitting scientific data to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) last month. The latest H-II A rocket launch was its seventh successful launch in a row, demonstrating to the world the reliability of Japanese-made rockets. It caused much excitement among people in the space industry who are struggling to win contracts to launch commercial satellites.

Turning our eyes to the current Parliamentary action concerning Japan’s new space law, however, we see dark clouds hanging low. The bill, “Japan’s Fundamental Act of Outer Space” was submitted to the Diet in June by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. The Diet was supposed to discuss and pass the bill within this year. But the legislation on which people in the space industry are placing high hopes is still up in the air, because the Diet is facing serious political turmoil. The turmoil has been caused by the ruling party’s big loss in the Upper House election held in July and the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s abrupt decision on September 12 to step down. Given the current political situation, it is absolutely unclear if the bill will be enacted in the current Diet session, which ends on December 15, 2007 and which can be extended by one month through mid-January, 2008.

Despite the delay in Parliamentary action, I expect the key legislation for the promotion of space exploitation to clear the Diet next spring or summer at the latest. Hoping my expectation will come true, I would like to introduce to you and discuss the contents of Japan’s proposed new space law over the next couple of weeks on Res Communis.

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Hiroshi is an attorney admitted in both the United States (New York and California) and Japan. He served as an assistant judge for Tokyo District Court, and currently work as the chief attorney for Musashi International Law Office in Tokyo. His degrees are a B.A., Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; J.D., the Institute of Legal Research and Training, Tokyo; and, LL.M., Golden Gate University Law School.