Iran is preparing a site for launching a satellite, a government minister said on Monday, highlighting a program the United States says is a cover for ballistic missile development.
“Yes, a site is being prepared for placing the Zafar satellite into orbit,” Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted.
The post included a link to a story by U.S. broadcaster National Public Radio that noted satellite imagery suggested the Islamic Republic was preparing for a space launch.
Iran had at least two failed satellite launches last year.
After the Zafar satellite is placed in orbit a timeline has been finalized to launch five more, the minister said.
The United States fears long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads.
Tehran denies the U.S. accusation that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran following Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from an international accord designed to put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and the Rasad (Observation) satellite was sent into orbit in June 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite Navid (Promise) into orbit.
Zafar are iranian microsatellites with the mission to take high resolution wall maps and aerial photos of locations around the globe. A ground resolution of 22.5 m (other sources 80 m) has been reported.
The satellite is reportedly equipped with color cameras for surveying oil reserves, mines, jungles and natural disasters.
Two satellites of this type have been built. The first one will likely be launched in February 2020. It is planned to orbit the Earth at an altitude of 530 kilometers.
Header: Experts and engineers at the Iran University of Science and Technology deliver two homegrown “Zafar” satellites to representatives from Iran Space Agency in Tehran, January 19, 2020.