Recent satellite images seem to suggest that the rogue nation of Iran is preparing its own space launch, according to Fox News.
The images in question show the Imam Khomeini Spaceport, located in a desert of the Semnan province, with a support vehicle seen parked alongside a white launch tower, as often seen in the launch sequences of a spacecraft. A hydraulic crane is also visible in the photos, further suggesting an imminent launch. Other images have depicted a clear spike in activity at the spaceport, with more cars parked at the facility than before.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, described the scenery captured in the images as “fairly traditional pre-launch activity.”
“They’re not walking on eggshells,” he continued in a statement to the Associated Press. “I think [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi’s people have a new balance in mind” when it comes to the nation’s space program.
Iranian efforts to launch into space have previously been seen as shots across the bow at the United States and other Western nations, as such technology could be used to strengthen Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the event that they successfully develop such weapons. However, Iran’s space program has endured numerous failures in the past, with satellites often failing to make it into orbit even after the initial launches had been successful.
Prior attempted space launches were largely avoided while Iran was negotiating its nuclear deal with the United States under Barack Obama, with former President Hassan Rouhani being more in favor of the deal than an expanded space program. But the new president Raisi has pushed for an increase in the space program instead, calling for the first meeting of Iran’s Supreme Council of Space in 11 years; at the meeting, Raisi described “the determination of this government to develop the space industry.”
Lewis further commented on the clear differences between Raisi’s space policy and Rouhani’s space policy, saying that Raisi’s government is “not constrained by worries about the Iran deal in the same way that Rouhani was.”