Iran’s defense minister says another satellite launch coming ‘soon’
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Iran’s defense minister says another satellite launch coming ‘soon’

Comments come after failed attempt last week, and amid Western fears Tehran is using program to further its ballistic missile capability

This picture, released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on July 27, 2017, claims to show the Simorgh satellite-carrying rocket at Imam Khomeini National Space Center, in an undisclosed location, Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)
This picture, released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on July 27, 2017, claims to show the Simorgh satellite-carrying rocket at Imam Khomeini National Space Center, in an undisclosed location, Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Iran’s defense minister vowed on Wednesday to carry out another satellite launch “soon” and promised “good news” would be announced in the near future about the country’s defense industry.

Amir Hatami’s comments follow a failed attempt by Iran to put a satellite in orbit last week.

The “technical problem” that led to the failure “is clear for us,” Hatami was quoted by the official Mehr news agency as saying on Wednesday, outside a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

Iran had said that it planned to send two non-military satellites, Payam and Doosti, into orbit. The Payam, which means “message” in Farsi, was an imagery satellite that Iranian officials said would help with farming and other activities.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami speaks at the Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

It is unclear how the failure of the Payam will affect the launch timing for the Doosti, which means “friendship.”

Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi wrote on Twitter last week that “Doosti is waiting for orbit,” without elaborating.

Shortly after the Payam’s failure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seemed to suggest it would be several months before another attempted satellite launch.

He said Iran had “achieved great success in building satellites and launching them. That means we are on the right track. The remaining problems are minor, will be resolved in a few months, and we will soon be ready for a new launch,” state media reported him saying, according to Reuters.

President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the death of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in Tehran, Iran, on January 10, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

After Rouhani mentioned the two satellites at the cabinet meeting, Hatami said, “From the two satellites that President Rouhani referred earlier, one has been launched and the other one will soon be sent into orbit,” according to Mehr.

Iran’s satellite launches have faced criticism from the West and Israel arguing that it is using the tests to advance its ballistic missile program, since the rockets used in the two programs depend on very similar technology.

“We call on Iran to refrain from conducting any further launches of ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including space launch vehicles, and urge Iran to comply with its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week.

Screen capture from video of an Iranian satellite launch, January 15, 2019. (Twitter)

After the launch, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated his allegation that Iran’s space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon to the mainland US, criticism that comes amid the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach toward Tehran after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Pompeo said that the vehicle that Iran tried to put into orbit uses technology that is “virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.” He said the US is working with its partners “to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic’s threats, including its missile program, which threatens Europe and the Middle East.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly slammed Iran over the launch, accusing Tehran of lying and alleging that the “innocent satellite” was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.

Satellite photos, released by Israeli firm ImageSat International on January 14, 2019, show apparent preparations by Iran to launch a satellite into space from its Imam Khomenei Spaceport in northern Iran. (ImageSat International)

Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says it is not violating a United Nations resolution that only “called upon” it not to conduct such tests.

Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 claimed to have launched a monkey into space.

Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution.

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