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Defence Ministry Confirms Plans to Launch Satellite-Carrying Rocket from Semnan

June 15, 2022
2 min read
Snaps from Tuesday showed increased activity around the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan
Snaps from Tuesday showed increased activity around the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan

No further developments have been recoreded since the Islamic Republic confirmed on Wednesday it plans to carry out two tests for a solid-fueled rocket.

Satellite photos published by MAXAR showed high activity at ther Imam Khomeini Spaceport on Tuesday. IRNA news agency then quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini as saying the plan is to launch the satellite-carrying Zuljanah rocket twice more from the desert site in Semnan province. The spaceport has been the site of several recent, failed attempts to put a satellite in orbit.

One of the images taken on Tuesday by Maxar Technologies showed a rocket on a transporter preparing to be lifted onto a launch tower. A later one showed the rocket on the tower.

Hosseini did not give an exact time frame for the tests. erecting a rocket usually means a launch is imminent. But NASA fire satellites, which detect flashes of light from space, did not detect any activity over the course of Tuesday night, and no report of a successful launch appeared in state media over the next 48 hours.

The Islamic Republic claims it has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the past decade and in 2013 claimed to have launched a monkey into space. But the current program, Simorgh, has seen at least five failed launches of satellite-carrying rockets. 

A massive explosion took place on the same launchpad at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in 2019, with Iranian authorities saying at the time that three people had been killed. In February satellite images suggested a failed launch at Zuljanah but Tehran did not acknowledge it.

The IRGC also launched its own military satellite into space in April 2020. The latest developments come days after the IRGC reported one of its operatives, a young aerospace worker called Mohammed Abdous whom it described as a "martyr", had been killed while on a mission in Semnan. Later, however, the Defense Ministry claimed Abdous worked for that institution, which also designed the Zuljanah.  

Washington holds that the satellite launches violate a UN Security Council resolution. A 2022 threat assessment for the US intelligence community claimed that a satellite launch vehicle like this “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile for Iran as it uses “similar technologies.”

The move also comes amid fresh tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran has newly said it will remove 27 IAEA surveillance cameras from its nuclear sites while uranium enrichment is inching closer to weapons-grade levels.

 

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