Iran Planning Launch of Two Satellites: Official

January 20, 2020 Updated: January 20, 2020

Iran is preparing to launch two newly constructed satellites that have passed pre-launch tests, its Telecommunications Minister announced on Jan. 19.

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said on Sunday that the launch of the 200-pound Zafar satellites is an “important research step.” He added that they would soon be transported to Iran’s space center; however, he did not detail a scheduled launch date.

“The Zafar 1 and 2 satellites, which have been designed by Iranian scientists, have successfully passed their tests, and their launch process will commence soon,” Jahromi wrote. “Two versions of Zafar have been built by young Iranian scientists, both of which are technologically superior to those we had built before.”

The satellites, which were developed locally, were handed over by the Iran University of Science and Technology to the Iranian Space Agency, the Financial Tribune reported.

Each of the satellites is understood to be equipped with four high-resolution color cameras, which the nation’s mostly state-run media say will monitor and transmit data on natural resources as well as agricultural and environmental developments.

The satellites reportedly each have a lifespan of 18 months, and if the launch is successful, they will orbit the earth at an altitude of 530 kilometers, according to Mehr News Agency.

The news comes amid continuous warnings from the United States following concerns that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads.

Iran has repeatedly denied the United States accusation that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development, and said its satellite program, like its nuclear activities, is peaceful and aimed at scientific research and other civilian applications. The nation’s defense ministry directs Tehran’s space program.

The upcoming launch follows multiple failed attempts by Iran to launch satellites into orbit early last year.

The nation last attempted a launch at Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran on Aug. 29 last year. However, it exploded on its launch pad, reportedly due to “technical issues.” A plume of black smoke could be seen rising from the launch pad in satellite imagery published by the Planet Labs Inc.

Iran also tried and failed to put two satellites into orbit in January and February last year. However, malfunctions meant they did not reach escape velocity.

At the time, United States officials raised concerns the planned launches would violate the United Nations Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to cease all activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

“The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement before the planned launches last year. “We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.