A Russian Soyuz-2.1bn rocket launched the Iranian observation satellite “Khayam” into space on Tuesday, according to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. The launch was made at 05:52 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and has raised fears that it will be used for the benefit of Moscow in the invasion of Ukraine. Iran, however, points out that the satellite will not be controlled by Russia.
“This is the beginning of strategic cooperation between Iran and Russia in the field of space,” Communications Minister Isa Zarepour told the Iranian media. The politician recalled that the two countries have collaborated before in space with the launch of a satellite in 2005, but he hailed Tuesday’s exercise as a new “beginning”.
Khayam, named after an Iranian poet from the 11th century, weighing 600 kilos and located in an orbit 500 kilometers from Earth, is a measurement satellite, with a precision to take images of approximately one meter and has environmental and agricultural purposes , according to Iranian authorities.
“This satellite is a very big step for the provision of space data in the country and we can use its high-precision images to improve space applications in the fields of environment and agriculture,” said Zarepour.
Some analysts have pointed out that Russia could use the satellite for its own purposes in the Ukraine war, something Tehran denies. According to the American newspaper The Washington Postwhich cites two US government sources, the Iranian satellite will be able to detect military targets in the Middle East, but in a first stage it would be used by Russia to support its military campaign in Ukraine.
“No country will be able to use the information (from the satellite) thanks to the encryption,” the Iranian space agency said in a statement, which ensures that it will have control of the device “from day one.”
The satellite launch comes three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In recent weeks, Iran has defended its technological collaboration with Russia after the United States claimed that Tehran will sell hundreds of drones to Moscow for the Ukraine war. “Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of some modern technologies dates back to before the war in Ukraine,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said at the time.