Iran: The Iranian Space Organisation’s Sorayya satellite was launched and placed in a 750-kilometre orbit.
Iran announced Saturday that it has successfully launched a satellite into its highest orbit yet, the next step in a program that the West believes may upgrade Tehran’s ballistic missiles. The statement comes as tensions in the Middle East rise amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and just days after Iran and Pakistan exchanged bombings in each other’s nations. Using a three-stage Qaem 100 rocket, the Soraya satellite was launched into an orbit approximately 750 kilometers (460 miles) above Earth’s surface, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Despite telecommunications minister Isa Zarepour describing the launch as having a 50-kilogram (110-pound) payload, it did not immediately recognize what the satellite did.
According to the article, the launch was a component of Iran’s civilian space program as well as the Revolutionary Guards’ space program. Independent verification that Iran had successfully launched the satellite into orbit was not available right away. Requests for comment from the State Department and the U.S. military were not immediately answered. The United States has asserted that Iran’s satellite launches violate a U.N. Security Council resolution. Washington has urged Tehran to refrain from engaging in any activities related to ballistic missiles with the capability of delivering nuclear weapons. Sanctions associated with Iran’s ballistic missile program at the U.N. expired last October.
According to the United States intelligence community’s 2023 global threat assessment, the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the timeline” for Iran’s construction of an intercontinental ballistic missile because it uses similar technology. Nuclear weapons can be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles. Iran’s nuclear agreement with the world powers collapsed, and the country is already generating uranium at levels almost ready for use in weapons. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned time and again that Tehran possesses enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs, should it decide to make them.
Iran maintains that both its space program and its nuclear operations are only for civilian objectives, and it has consistently denied seeking nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, according to the IAEA and U.S. intelligence agencies, Iran maintained a formal military nuclear program until 2003. The West is concerned about the Guard’s role in the launches and its ability to fire the rocket from a mobile launcher. The Guard disclosed their space program back in 2020. The Guard reports only to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
Iran has launched a monkey into space in 2013 and many transitory satellites into orbit over the previous ten years. However, there have been current issues with the program. The Simorgh program, which aims to launch another rocket that carries satellites, has had five consecutive unsuccessful launches. In February 2019, a fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport killed three researchers, according to authorities. Later that year, a launchpad rocket explosion grabbed the attention of then-President Donald Trump, who mocked Iran with a tweet featuring what looked to be a US surveillance photo of the site.
Iran launched an animal-carrying capsule into orbit in December as part of its preparations for human flights in the coming years.