Iran Claims Successful Launch of Imaging Satellite
Iran announced on Wednesday that it has successfully launched an imaging satellite into space, a move that could escalate tensions with Western nations concerned about Iran’s space technology being used to develop nuclear weapons. The Noor-3 satellite was reportedly placed in orbit 450 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, according to Iran’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour. The launch date was not specified.
Western officials have not yet acknowledged the launch or confirmed the satellite’s placement in orbit. The U.S. military has not responded to requests for comment. In recent years, Iran has experienced a series of unsuccessful launches. However, this particular launch was conducted by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has had more success.
General Hossein Salami, the top commander of the Revolutionary Guard, called the launch a “victory” and stated that the satellite will collect data and images. Footage of the rocket launching from a mobile launcher was released, although the exact location was undisclosed. The video matched a base near Shahroud, approximately 330 kilometers northeast of Tehran, in Semnan province where the Imam Khomeini Spaceport, Iran’s civilian space program facility, is located.
Iran operates its own space program and military infrastructure alongside its regular armed forces. The program answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It launched its first satellite into space in April 2020, which the U.S. Space Command dismissed as a “tumbling webcam in space.” Iran is prohibited from importing advanced spying technology due to Western sanctions.
The United States accuses Iran of violating a U.N. Security Council resolution with its satellite launches and has urged Tehran to refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment suggests that Iran’s development of satellite launch vehicles may expedite the country’s ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, as similar technology is involved.
Iran has consistently denied pursuing nuclear weapons and maintains that its space program, like its nuclear activities, is strictly civilian. U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have stated that Iran abandoned its military nuclear program in 2003.
While Iran has successfully launched several short-lived satellites into orbit over the past decade, there have been recent failures in the Simorgh program, which aims to launch satellite-carrying rockets. In 2019, a fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport resulted in the deaths of three researchers, and a rocket explosion at the launchpad later that year drew attention from then-President Donald Trump.
Tensions between Western nations and Iran are already high due to Iran’s nuclear program, which has advanced since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions. Efforts to revive the agreement have stalled for over a year. The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran possesses enough uranium enriched to near-weapons grade levels to potentially build several nuclear weapons. Iran is also constructing an underground nuclear facility that may be impervious to airstrikes. Both the U.S. and Israel have stated their willingness to use military force if necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has expressed its willingness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal but insists that the U.S. must first lift sanctions.
– Noor-3: An imaging satellite launched by Iran.
– Revolutionary Guard: A paramilitary force in Iran that operates its own space program alongside the regular armed forces.
– Imam Khomeini Spaceport: Iran’s civilian space program facility located in Semnan province.
– Intercontinental Ballistic Missile: A ballistic missile with a range capable of reaching other continents.
– U.N. Security Council resolution: A resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council that outlines restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
– International Atomic Energy Agency: An international organization that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy and verifies compliance with nuclear non-proliferation treaties.
Sources: AP, IRNA (state-run news agency)