Iran hails successful launch of test ‘tug,’ capable of changing satellites’ orbit

Space agency chief hopes to use the spacecraft soon; US concerned Tehran’s space program could be used to improve its ballistic missiles

An illustration of a satellite orbiting the earth (Istock photos)
An illustration of a satellite orbiting the earth (Istock photos)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits.

State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry.

Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state TV that officials “hope to use and test the main tug in near future.”

Iran unveiled the craft in 2017. A space tug can transfer a satellite from one orbit to another.

Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes. The country has both a civilian and a military space program, which the US fears could be used to advance its ballistic missile program.

In June, Tehran launched a solid-fuel rocket into space and in August a Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.

In this handout photo taken from video released by Roscosmos on August 9, 2022, a Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off to carry Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome near Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (Roscosmos via AP)

However, Iran has seen a series of mishaps and failed satellite launches over recent years.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces.

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