Satellite imagery shows Iran preparing to launch satellite

A recent satellite image of Imam Khomeni Space Center shows that the launch gantry for a Simorgh "satellite launching vehicle" is in position for fueling and launch of the rocket. (credit: Arms Control Wonk/ Middlebury/Airbus Defense and Space)

Just weeks after North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit, Iran is preparing an attempt to match that effort—and rocket ahead in the development of its own ICBM technology in the process. Images obtained by Melissa Hanham, Catherine Dill, and Dr Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk from Apollo Mapping and Airbus Defense and Space show that the Imam Khomeni Space Center near Semnan, Iran, is actively preparing for a launch. The Iranian government has issued a NOTAM (notice to airmen) warning them away from the area from March 1 to March 2.

The Khomeni Space Center is near Semnan, Iran—about 200 kilometers east of Tehran. The launch vehicle being stacked there, called the Simorgh, is designed to put a 100 kilogram payload (220 pounds) into a low-earth orbit of 500 kilometers (310 miles, or roughly 270 nautical miles).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani holds a press conference in front of the Simorgh "satellite launching vehicle" being assembled in an Iranian attachment facility in 2015.

The satellite, which was unveiled in February, is called the Friendship Testing Satellite. It's essentially a giant "cubesat" carrying a number of experiments. And like the North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite launched in February, the Friendship Testing Satellite is roughly the mass of a nuclear warhead.

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