A high-resolution Iranian-owned satellite has been launched into space from a base in Kazakhstan on board a Russian rocket, amid speculation about its uses.
The remote-sensing Khayyam satellite, which Iran has said it wants to use for non-military purposes, was successfully launched on Tuesday, according to footage aired live by Iranian state television.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post quoting Western intelligence officials reported that Russia plans to use the satellite “for months or longer” to assist its war efforts in Ukraine.
The claim has been rejected by the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), which said last week it will have exclusive control over the satellite “from day one”, and Russia’s Roscosmos.
ISA said orders transmitted to the satellite and data received from it will be encrypted and controlled by a team of Iranian engineers and scientists in Iran, and “no other country has access to the information throughout this process”.
The agency also emphasised that images from Khayyam, which are expected to come with a resolution of one metre, will be used to bolster “management and planning capacities” in a variety of industries such as agriculture, natural resources, environment, water resources, mining, disaster management, in addition to border monitoring.
According to the state-run news agency IRNA, Iran has the capability to build remote-sensing satellites with an image resolution of 5-10 metres and can inject up to 50kg packages into an orbit of 500km.
But the Khayyam which was commissioned by Iran and built by Russia, can hit a much more precise resolution of 1 metre and is to operate at the 500km orbit while weighing about 600kg.
“This is the start of a strategic cooperation between Iran and Russia in the space industry,” Iran’s ICT Minister Issa Zarepour said.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has launched two satellites into space so far, with the second launch taking place in March.
The elite forces’ aerospace chief, Amirali Hajizadeh, announced last month that the IRGC plans to launch another satellite into orbit before the end of the current Iranian year in March 2023.