DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Expert and satellite imagery suggest that Iran is preparing to launch into space as Vienna negotiates a failed nuclear deal with world powers.
The blast at Iran’s Imam Khomeini spaceport came as Iranian state media provided a list of future satellite launches in the Islamic Republic’s civilian space program.. Iran’s militarized Revolutionary Guard is pursuing its parallel program, which successfully launched the satellite into orbit last year..
The talks, which began during the Vienna talks, are in line with the firm stance of Tehran negotiators, who have already described the six rounds of diplomacy as a “project” that has angered Western countries. Germany’s new foreign minister warned that “now is the time for us.”
But all of this is in line with Iran’s tough President Ibrahim Raisi’s focus on the universe, said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Center for the Study of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Midbury Institute for International Studies, who studies the Tehran program. Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s cancellation of the nuclear deal has allayed concerns that the United States could bypass talks with claims that it would support Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
“They don’t walk in an eggshell,” Lewis said. “I think the people of the President are thinking of a new balance.”
The Iranian state media did not acknowledge the activity at the spaceport and did not respond to a request for comment from Iran’s mission to the United Nations. The U.S. military, which has been monitoring the space launch, has not responded to requests for comment.
Planet Labs Inc., acquired by the Associated Press. Satellite images taken by
The support vehicle was parked next to a large white portal that usually houses the rocket launch pad. This support vehicle appeared in other satellite photos on the site just before launch. There is also a hydraulic crane with a rail platform, which was also seen before the previous launch and was used to service the rocket.
In recent days, other satellite imagery at the spaceport has shown an increase in the number of cars at the facility, another sign that activity is usually continuing. Lewis said the building, which is an “inspection” facility for the missile, has also increased activity.
“It’s a traditional pre-launch activity,” he told the AP.
The activity came after Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency published an article on Dec. 5 about its readiness to launch four satellites in its space program. It described a single, low-orbit imaging satellite, Zafar 2, as “in the final stages of preparation.” Zafar, which means “victory” in Persian, weighs about 113 kilograms (250 pounds).
However, Zafar 1 failed to enter orbit after being launched in February 2020 at Cosmodrome. According to Iranian officials, it used a Simurg or Phoenix rocket that launched the rocket into space, but was unable to launch it into orbit at the required speed. Iran has spent just less than 2 million euros to build the satellite.
Iran’s civil space program has suffered a series of failures and catastrophic explosions in recent years. One mysterious explosion even caught the attention of then-President Donald Trump in 2019, who posted a secret photo of a U.S. spy satellite after the explosion on Twitter. with the headline: “The United States is not involved in a catastrophic catastrophe.”
At the same time, the Guard revealed its secret space program in April 2020 by successfully launching the satellite into orbit. The head of the U.S. Space Command later dismissed the satellite as a “crashing webcam in space,” which could not provide important intelligence for Iran – although it did show Tehran’s ability to successfully launch into orbit.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-range satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. But according to a recent report on state television, Iran’s Supreme Space Council convened for the first time in 11 years under its chairman.
“This shows the government’s commitment to developing the space industry,” the chairman said at a meeting in November. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a senior member of the Guard who manages the aerospace program, attended the meeting along with Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian.
The U.S. claims that the launch of such a satellite violates a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to take no action on ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran, which has long said it will not pursue nuclear weapons, continues to launch satellites and does not have a missile test military unit. Tehran also says it has not violated the UN resolution because it only “called” on Tehran not to conduct such tests.
However, the possible launch comes at a time when tensions over Iran’s nuclear program are rising again. As Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018, Iran gradually phased out all restrictions on the deal.
Today, Tehran enriches uranium to 60% purity – a technical step that is shorter than 90% of the weapon level. Its enriched uranium reserves also continue to grow, and international inspectors are having difficulty tracking its progress.
Lewis said he expects the space program to accelerate, given the Chairman’s interest.
“They are not limited by concerns about the Iran deal like Rohani,” he said.
Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran (Iran) contributed to this report.
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