Satellite imagery suggests Iran is preparing to launch a space rocket

Iran appeared to be preparing to launch into space on Tuesday. Satellite images showing rockets on launch pads in rural deserts suggest that tensions on Tehran’s nuclear program remain high.

Maxar Technologies images show the launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in the countryside of Semnan Province, Iran. This is where attempts to put satellites into orbit have failed frequently these days.

One set of images shows a transport rocket being lifted and ready to be placed in a launch tower. Images after Tuesday afternoon clearly showed that there was a rocket on top of the tower.

Iran has not acknowledged future launches at the spaceport, and its mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, in May, the state-owned IRNA news agency said Iran was likely ready to launch seven homemade satellites by the end of the Persian calendar year in March 2023.

It was not clear when these launches would take place, but building a rocket usually means that the launch is imminent. NASA’s satellites, which detect flashes from space, did not immediately see activity on the site late Tuesday night.

Over the last decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and launched monkeys into space in 2013. However, the program has had problems lately. The Simurgh program, a type of satellite-mounted rocket, failed to launch five times in a row. A fire at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 also killed three researchers, officials said.

US response

The United States argues that Iran’s satellite launch violates a UN Security Council resolution approving a joint program that promises Iran to pursue a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes, and activities related to ballistic missiles capable of launching nuclear weapons. I asked Teheran not to do it.

A U.S. intelligence agency’s 2022 threat assessment released in March stated that Simrug and other space rockets used “similar techniques” to shorten the timeline for Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Insisted.

US President Joe Biden spoke at the bill signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington on June 13, 2022.
US President Joe Biden will speak at the bill signing ceremony at the White House this week. The United States states that the launch of Iran’s spacecraft, contrary to a UN Security Council resolution promising only a peaceful nuclear program, called on Tehran not to engage in ballistic missile-related activities capable of launching nuclear weapons. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

US authorities, both the Pentagon and the State Department, did not immediately answer questions about launch preparation.

Iran, which has long said it did not seek nuclear weapons, previously claimed that satellite launches and rocket tests had no military component. US intelligence and the International Atomic Energy Agency have stated that Iran has abandoned its 2003 military nuclear program.

The launch pad used in preparation for Tuesday remains damaged by the August 2019 explosion that caught the attention of then-US President Donald Trump. He later tweeted what looked like a classified surveillance image of a launch failure.

February satellite imagery, although Iran did not admit it, suggested another launch failure earlier this year.

A series of failures raised suspicions of external interference with Iran’s program, which Trump himself hinted at by tweeting that the United States was “not involved in the catastrophic accident.” However, no evidence of fraudulent play has been provided for any of the failures, and launching into space remains challenging even in the world’s most successful programs.

Meanwhile, in April 2020, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps unveiled its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. In March of this year, the guards launched another satellite elsewhere in Semnan Province, just east of Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Escalation

Tehran’s nuclear program has recently become more tense and may be ready for Iran’s launch. Iran says it will remove 27 IAEA surveillance cameras from its nuclear site, even though it is enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before.

Both Iran and the United States claim they are ready to rejoin Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, whose wealth has been significantly curtailed by the Islamic Republic in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018, beginning in 2019 and today also launching a series of attacks and confrontations following the administration of US President Joe Biden.

Discussions in Vienna about the reinstatement of the contract have been “suspended” since March.

Analysts warn that Tehran’s progress will make the program more dangerous, but making a nuclear bomb will still take more time for Iran if it pursues weapons. increase. Israel has in the past threatened to launch a preemptive strike to thwart Iran. And it has already been suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials and individuals related to the nuclear program.

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