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Iran 'preparing for space launch' according to satellite images

The US alleges Iran's space programme is cover for ballistic missile testing [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 August, 2019

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The US believes Iran's space programme is being used to test ballistic missiles.
Iran might be set to launch another satellite into space after two failed launches this year, AP reported on Monday.

Satellite images of the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran's Semnan province this month shows a flurry of activity at the site.

The US has accused Iran of using the launches as cover for a ballistic missile programme, which comes amid tensions between Washington and Tehran after a nuclear deal with world powers collapsed when Washington withdrew.

An Iranian official has said that a satellite would soon be handed over to the country's defence ministry suggesting that an attempt to launch a satellite into orbit could take place soon.

"The Imam Khomeini space launch center is usually quite empty," said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

"Now we've seen pictures where you can see activities at this assembly center and something happening at the (launch) pad."

"If you put both together it sounds very likely there's something that's going to happen," he said.

The satellite images of the space centre, taken 9 August, show activity at one facility in the area, Hinz said Sunday.

Another image of a launch site shows workers making preparations for a possible launch, he said.

CNN
 reported on the satellite images of the space centre, some 240 kilometres (150 miles) southeast of Iran's capital, Tehran.

Iranian satellite launches had been anticipated before the end of the year.

In July, Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told AP that Tehran planned three more launches this year - two for remote-sensing work and another that for communications.

The Nahid-1 - meaning "Venus" in Farsi - is reportedly the telecommunication satellite, which could be in orbit for two-and-a-half months.

Jahromi was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency on 13 August as saying that the Nahid-1 was ready to be delivered to Iran's defence ministry, signaling a launch date for the satellite was likely imminent.

Iran's National Week of Government, during which Tehran often inaugurates new projects, begins 24 August.

The launch of the Nahid-1 comes after two failed attempts at getting satellites into orbit in January and February.

A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in February also killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.

Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.

The US alleges such launches defy a Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran, which has long said it doesn't seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests have no military component. Tehran also says they don't violate the UN resolution, as it only "called upon" Tehran not to conduct such tests.

The tests have taken on new importance to the US amid the intense pressure on Tehran by President Donald Trump's administration. 

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