Middle East

Iran acknowledges preparation to launch rocket into space, after satellite images reveal activity

Iran has admitted that it is preparing to launch a new satellite-carrying rocket into space, in what is its latest attempt to do so.

According to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, which cited Defence Ministry spokesman, Ahmad Hosseini, the country will conduct another two launches of its Zuljanah rocket after conducting a previous launch.

The acknowledgement comes after satellite images taken by the company, Maxar Technologies, yesterday revealed activity which appeared to be preparations at a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province. One set of the images showed a rocket on a transporter, and a later image showed the rocket lifted onto a launch tower, causing many to believe that a launch attempt is imminent.

The Zuljanah rocket – named after the horse of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussain – is reportedly set to put another satellite into orbit. The date and time of launch, however, is not yet know, with media reports stating that fire satellites from NASA did not yet detect any activity over the launch site.

Preparations for the launch come three months after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully launched their second military satellite into space this year. That success, however, also came after a series of setbacks over the years, such as the failure of Iran’s ‘Victory’ satellite launch in 2020 and, more recently, the incident of three payloads having failed to reach orbit at the end of 2021.

READ: US imposes new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme

Whatever the outcome of the planned launch of this latest satellite, western nations and their allies in the Gulf region view the rocket activity with increasing concern, particularly because they see it as a boost to the development of Iran’s ballistic missiles.

Upon news of the launch preparations, a spokesman for the Pentagon, US Army Major, Rob Lodewick, stated that the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”

The continuation of Iran’s rocket activities also comes amid the ongoing talks on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and guarantor nations. With those negotiations not yet being finalised and resolved, such activities are increasing concerns and tensions around the issue of the potential boost the rocket development can provide to Iran’s military capabilities.

US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters in Washington that the government urges Iran to de-escalate the situation, stating that “Iran has consistently chosen to escalate tensions. It is Iran that has consistently chosen to take provocative actions”.

READ: Possibility of returning to Iran nuclear deal ‘shrinking’, says EU foreign policy chief

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