US likely to bristle at new Iran plan to put satellite in orbit

US likely to bristle at new Iran plan to put satellite in orbit
The Imam Khomeini Spaceport is ready for another go.
By bne IntelliNews January 23, 2020

Tehran will attempt to put a satellite into orbit during Islamic Revolution celebrations in mid-February, according to a January 22 report from Tasnim News Agency citing Iranian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

The plan to launch observational satellite Zafar (Victory), built by the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), might prompt a hostile response from the US which accuses Iran of using its rocket-building programme as a disguised way of developing missiles that could carry a nuclear payload—something Tehran refutes.

The satellite, reportedly to be delivered to the defence ministry within the next few days, will be launched on Simorgh (a benevolent, mythical  bird in Iranian mythology, sometimes equated with the phoenix). In fact, Iran’s space rocket and satellite programme needs something like a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes recovery. The Iranians in 2019 suffered three space rocket launch failures. The third instance involved a rocket exploding on the launch pad last August at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in northern Semnan province.

Azari Jahromi said Zafar would be launched “before the 22nd day of [Persian calendar month] Bahman [February 11] and information about it will be publicised.”

He added: “If the mission fails, Zafar 2 will be launched shortly afterwards.”

Zafar weighs 113 kilograms and the plan is to put it in orbit at an altitude above 500 kilometres, Jahromi said, adding that it would be utilised for telecommunications, taking images and “picking up space signals”. Its planned life span is 18 months.

Iran is one of only a handful of countries capable of producing its own rockets and satellites.

The country launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009. That was followed by the Rasad (Observation) satellite in June 2011. In 2012, a third domestically made satellite, Navid (Promise), was successfully placed in orbit, according to Iranian officials.