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May 29, 2024

Iran Launches Advanced Sorayya Satellite, Escalating Regional Tensions

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Jan 20, 2024

Iran announced the successful launch of its domestically built Sorayya satellite on Saturday, a move that could advance the country’s ballistic missile program amid heightened tensions in the Middle East.1

The satellite launch represents a significant technological achievement for Iran’s controversial space program. However, Western countries fear the program helps Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Satellite Launch Boosts Iran’s Missile Technology

Carried on the Qaem 100 satellite carrier, the Sorayya satellite was launched at 7:15 a.m. local time on Saturday from Iran’s Imam Khomeini Spaceport, according to a statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force.2

The Revolutionary Guards said the satellite reached orbit 425 kilometers (264 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards’ aerospace unit, called it “good news for the country’s youth” and said it set a new record for Iran’s space program.3

Independent analysts confirmed the launch was successful after tracking the firing and separation of the carrier rocket stages.4 The event marks Iran’s first successful satellite launch since June 2021.5

The satellite technology has “dual-use applications”, meaning it can advance Iran’s civilian space program and military missile capabilities.1 Specifically, the powerful thrusters needed to put satellites into orbit can also be used to increase the range of ballistic missiles.

International Concerns Over Weapons Advancement

Israel quickly condemned the launch, with its defense minister saying Iran was developing technology to build weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. State Department also expressed concern about Iran’s space launch vehicle technologies adding to the country’s missile threat.6

Country Reaction
Israel Condemnation over weapons concerns
United States Concern over missile threat
France Heightened concern over missiles

France warned the satellite launcher could boost Iran’s ballistic missile program, calling on Iran to cease activities contrary to UN Security Council resolutions.7

The UK Foreign Office also criticized the launch, saying it was inconsistent with a UN Security Council resolution restraining Iran from undertaking activities related to ballistic missiles.8

Background on Iran’s Space Program

Iran’s space program has developed despite years of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities. The country views satellite launches as a symbol of national achievement and technical prowess.9

Space launch activities began in the early 2000s under reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The program accelerated after hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. He established the Iranian Space Agency and approved plans for several satellites and manned missions.10

When moderate President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, he slashed funding for the costly manned spaceflight plans. But he continued supporting satellite projects with military and civilian benefits.

Over the last two decades, Iran has successfully launched several small satellites into orbit. But its space program has also suffered major disasters, including several failed orbital launches and a launchpad explosion that killed three scientists.

Outlook: Missile Tests and Further Space Launches Expected

Security analysts expect Tehran to conduct more space launches in 2024 to demonstrate its expanding technological abilities. These launches could coincide with Iranian missile tests.11

In addition, Iran may launch a more advanced satellite later this year as it works towards a goal of placing 80 satellites in orbit by 2025.12

The country’s improving launch capabilities and its refusal to negotiate over the space program will likely worsen tensions with Israel and Western nations. Ongoing international talks with Iran aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal remain stalled.

In the meantime, Israeli leaders have vowed to use military force if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Israeli air force is believed to have carried out covert airstrikes against Iranian missile and nuclear facilities in recent years.

With Iran’s space program benefiting its missile technology, the successful launch of the Sorayya satellite means the risk of open conflict continues to grow.

  1. https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20240120-iran-announces-successful-satellite-launch-heightening-western-concerns-over-missile-program

  2. https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2024/01/20/718559/Iran-space-launch-record-Soraya-satellite-Qaem-100-satellite-carrier

  3. https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2024/01/20/718559/Iran-space-launch-record-Soraya-satellite-Qaem-100-satellite-carrier

  4. https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/1748736907394076732

  5. https://www.newindianexpress.com/amp/story/world/2024/Jan/20/iran-launches-satellite-in-new-aerospace-milestone

  6. https://apnews.com/article/iran-satellite-launch-mideast-tensions-israel-palestinians-gaza-b2d8d654c24cf588acaa8228229a0415

  7. https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20240120-iran-announces-successful-satellite-launch-heightening-western-concerns-over-missile-program

  8. https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/middle-east/iran-eastern-states/1705747199-iran-says-it-launched-satellite-into-orbit-as-part-of-irgc-space-program

  9. https://english.almayadeen.net/news/technology/iran-sets-new-space-launch-record-with-new-soraya-satellite

  10. https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2024/Jan/20/iran-launches-satellite-in-new-aerospace-milestone

  11. https://twitter.com/JasonMBrodsky/status/1748662573443018971

  12. https://english.almayadeen.net/news/technology/iran-sets-new-space-launch-record-with-new-soraya-satellite

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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