Iran launches 'three research cargos' into space

Iranian media says Iran successfully launched the Simorgh space-launch vehicle (SLV) to an altitude of 470 km. with cargos on board, releasing footage of a rocket being launched as evidence.

The Safir satellite-carrier rocket, which was designed for Iran's Omid satellite, is seen before launch at Iran's space centre in Tehran in 2009 (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Safir satellite-carrier rocket, which was designed for Iran's Omid satellite, is seen before launch at Iran's space centre in Tehran in 2009
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Iranian media said the country has launched three “research payloads” into space with its Simorgh satellite-carrying rocket. The announcement on Thursday came from Iran’s Defense Ministry.

Initial details say that Iran had successfully launched the Simorgh space-launch vehicle (SLV) to an altitude of 470 km. with cargo on board. More details must be confirmed and examined to determine the implications of the launch.

According to early reports, the launch to an altitude of 470 km. probably did not put the payload into orbit, as that would have required a higher altitude. It is unclear what became of the payloads – they possibly plummeted into the ocean.

Iranian media released footage showing a rocket being launched as evidence of its claim to have conducted the launch. The video was shot during the day, apparently on Thursday morning.

Tasnim News in Iran reported that the launch shows Iran’s “indigenous space capability and the ability to launch small satellites.” It also shows “the development of launchers with higher capabilities, the design and development of Imam Khomeini space center, and the satellite on Simorgh, included in the country’s space industry program.”

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps elite Aerospace force (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps elite Aerospace force (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

According to Iranian statements, “in this launch, the performance of the components of the space base and of the satellite’s stages were performed correctly, and finally, the intended research goals of this launch were achieved.”

For the first time, three “research” cargoes were launched. The report indicated that data from the launch will enable other operational launches.

Iran has an impressive program of ballistic missile development and is trying to play a larger role in space. In January 2020, its Defense Ministry space group made claims about new satellite carriers.

Spokesperson Assad Hosseini bragged at the time that Iran was now the seventh country to develop space technology of this kind.

Tasnim said then that “referring to the upcoming launch of the homegrown ‘Zafar’ satellite, it has 25-meter precision and the precision of the next version of Zafar will be 16 meters.”

He also mentioned the Sarir and Soroush satellite carriers, adding that “the country is seeking to build solid-fuel satellite carriers in the near future.”

Other reports on December 12 noted that there was new activity at Iran’s spaceport known as the Khomeini National Space Center, showing the Simorgh satellite-carrying rocket in position.

There was an attempted launch in June using this rocket, which failed. There was another failure in February 2020 involving the Zafar satellite.

An additional failure in August 2019 prompted former US president Donald Trump to tweet a photo of the launch site. Iran put a spy satellite into orbit, the country claimed, in April 2020.

A New Lines Institute report on December 28 said that Iran’s military space program was picking up speed. Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi wants to put new emphasis on the space program, according to reports at War on the Rocks published on December 27.

The prediction at that time, a few days ago, was that new launches would occur. Now it appears one has taken place.

It comes in the wake of a recent drill in which Iran also showed off ballistic missiles.