Russia launches Iranian satellite amid Ukraine war fears

An Iranian satellite was launched into space on Tuesday by a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan and reached orbit shortly after, amid fears that Moscow would use it in its operation in Ukraine.

Images transmitted by the Russian space agency Roscosmos showed the Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying the Khayyam satellite as it blasted off from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome at the scheduled time of 0552 GMT.

Russian mission control confirmed its entry into orbit.

Iran, which maintains ties with Russia and avoids criticizing Russian action in Ukraine, sought to allay suspicions that Moscow would use the Khayyam to monitor military targets in Ukraine.

Last week, The Washington Post quoted a Western intelligence official as saying that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or more” to support its military operations before allowing Iran to take control.

But the Iranian Space Agency (ISS) assured on Sunday that the Islamic republic will control the Kayyam “from day one”.

“No third country will be able to access the information” sent by the satellite due to its “encrypted algorithm,” he said.

The Kayyam’s mission is to “monitor the country’s borders,” increase agricultural productivity, and monitor water resources and natural disasters, the agency said.

In a statement last Monday, the AEI extolled “the high reliability factor of the Soyuz launcher.”

“Due to the weight of the Kayyam satellite of more than two and a half tons and the high success rate of the Soyuz launcher, the launch of the Khayyam satellite was entrusted to Russia,” according to a statement on the AEI website.

Faced with the international isolation of Moscow by Western sanctions, the Kremlin has sought to reach out to the Middle East, Asia and Africa, seeking new clients for its troubled space program.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran in July, on one of his few trips abroad since the invasion of Ukraine.

– Long-term cooperation –

Iran is currently negotiating with world powers, including Russia, to salvage a 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States, which left the deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, accuses Iran of supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine under a “cloak of neutrality.”

During his July meeting with Putin, Khamenei discussed “long-term cooperation” with Russia, and Tehran has refused to join international condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.

Iran insists that its space program is for civilian and defensive purposes, and that it is not breaking the 2015 nuclear deal.

Western governments fear that satellite delivery systems incorporate technologies interchangeable with those of ballistic missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, something Iran has denied it intends to build.

Iran managed to launch its first military satellite in April 2020, a move heavily criticized by the United States.


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