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Iran Set To Launch Four Satellites Soon, Warns of Parallel IRGC Space Programme

The Iran Space Agency Mahdasht Space Centre. Photo credits: Raheb Homavandi, Reuters.

Iran’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, told a space conference in Tehran on 3 February, 2018, that an Iranian satellite is ready to launch, and three others are in their pre-launch procedures.

Jahromi also told his audience that Iran has made “great headways in developing research satellites, such as those used for measurement or telecommunication purposes,” according to the Tasnim News Agency.

The satellites thought to be ready – or nearly ready – for launch are Nahid-1 and -2, both communication satellites, and Amir Kabir-1 (also known as AUTSAT-1) and Dousti, both remote sensing satellites.

According to Mehr News Agency, the Dousti remote sensing satellite is ready for imminent launch.

Dousti (Persian for Friendship) is a remote sensing satellite, and was developed by the Remote Sensing Laboratory of the Iran Space Agency and Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, and is expected to weigh about 50kg.

Nahid-2 (Nahid is Persian for Venus) is the successor to the Nahid-1 satellite that was expected to have been launched by March 2017, but as yet is still awaiting a launch date in 2018.

Nahid-1 was originally scheduled to be launched in 2012, and has folding solar panels. Nahid-1 is designed and jointly manufactured by the Elm-O-Sanat University Metro Station in Tehran and the Iranian Space Agency’s Aerospace Research Institute. Nahid-1 will weigh about 55 kilograms and operate in the Ku-band.

Nahid-2 will weigh approximately 100 kilograms and will be 64 by 64 centimetres in size, and is supposed to be placed in geosynchronous orbit (approximately 36,000 kilometres altitude) in 2018. SpaceWatch Middle East reported in March 2017 that the Iran Space Agency has applied for five orbital slots in that orbit with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Amir Kabir-1, also known as AUTSAT-1, is a remote sensing satellite that weighs 70-80kg with a resolution of about 80 metres, and is designed to provide post-disaster surveillance (such as earthquakes) and agricultural applications. Amir Kabir-1 is designed by the Amir-Kabir University of Technology, and is being manufactured by the university and by a company called Iran Aerospace Industries Organisation.

In his speech on 3 February, Jahromi appeared to take a swipe at Iranian hardliners, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), when he told his audience that that all Iranian space activities should be conducted by a single Iranian institution, calling on the armed forces not to carry out a “parallel” space programme that threatens to undermine Iranian claims that its space activities are for purely peaceful purposes.

Iranian space officials also expressed concern in recent days that Iranian society is largely unaware of its space programme and what satellite applications can contribute to Iranian society and the economy.

In an interview with the Mehr News Agency, the Deputy Director of the Iran Space Agency, Mojtaba Saradeghi, said that, “The applications of space technologies is so broad that it can play a huge role in the everyday matters of the people, if it was available at their disposal.”

“The location system, GPS (Global Positioning System) which is being used by most people through a number of mobile applications is one of the examples. It’s also used in matters such as increasing the fertility of the agricultural grounds, finding where fishes gather for fisheries, and even forecasting natural disasters like earthquakes and floods,” he said.

Saradeghi added that Iran should develop its own indigenous range of satellite applications from communications and Earth observation, through to positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities, in order that no foreign entity can interfere with them.

Saradeghi also called for greater commercial involvement in Iranian space activities, saying that, “space technology should become an everyday need in the lives of the people, and in order to reach this point, startups can enter the arena. As a result, this year in the national day of space technology, the agency is going to identify and support startup ideas in this field.”

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