This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Tehran says Iranian experts will control “from day one” an Iranian satellite due to be launched by Russia next week, rejecting reports that it will be first used by Moscow to “enhance its surveillance of military targets” in Ukraine.
“All orders related to the control and operation of this satellite will be carried out and issued from day one and immediately after launch by Iranian experts based in Iran’s…space bases,” the Iranian Space Agency said in a statement on August 7.
The spacecraft, a remote sensing satellite called Khayyam, will be sent into orbit by a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on August 9, according to Russia’s State Space Corporation.
A report by The Washington Post on August 4 claimed that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or longer” to assist its war efforts in Ukraine before allowing Iran to take control of it.
Citing anonymous Western intelligence officials, the report said the satellite will provide Tehran with “unprecedented capabilities, including near-continuous monitoring of sensitive facilities” in Israel and in the Gulf.
But the Iranian space agency dismissed the claims as “untrue,” and said “no third country is able to access the information” sent by the satellite due to its “encrypted algorithm.”
Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, followed by the launch of military reconnaissance satellite Nour-2 in March 2022.
Last year, Moscow denied a U.S. media report that Russia is set to deliver an advanced satellite system to Iran that will vastly improve its spying capabilities.
Western governments worry that satellite launch systems incorporate technologies interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only.