Space: Iran and Orbital Nukes

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January29, 2007: Iran has converted one of its largest ballistic missiles, a 30 ton Shahab 3, into a satellite launcher. It's possible, with modern lightweight electronics, to build a 500 pound reconnaissance satellite, that the Shahab could lift into low earth orbit. More worrisome is the fact that, with a satellite that size, you can also put a nuclear warhead in orbit, and have it descend to anywhere on the planet. Such weapons, called FOBS (Fractional Orbital Bombardment System) were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. A few of these FOBS carrying missiles were built and put into service, but no one was eager to have nuclear weapons in orbit. It was considered cheaper and safer to just use conventional ICBMs. Russia dismantled its FOBS missiles in the 1980s. But there's nothing to prevent Iran from building some FOBS missiles, as a way to threaten the United States with nuclear attack. North Korea could also build FOBS, because most of Irans long range ballistic missile comes from North Korea.

 


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