Iran Ready for Space Satellite Launch amid JCPOA Talks in Vienna

Photo credit: Planet Labs, Inc.

According to several satellite images that are showing alleged activity at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Spaceport, Tehran’s apparently getting ready to launch a space satellite amid the Vienna talks on the Iran nuclear deal

Iranian media reported in early December that Tehran’s civilian space program stipulates launching four satellites, including one satellite – low-orbit imaging satellite Zafar 2- that’s under the final phase of preparation.

The private San-Francisco-based Planet Labs, Inc. published on photo reportedly showing a support vehicle and hydraulic crane that, according to the AP claims, have appeared at the site ahead of previous launches.

Another of the photographs shows the alleged purported uptick in the number of cars seen at the launch pad with Jeffrey Lewis, expert at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, arguing that all this is traditional pre-launch activity.

The likely launch from Imam Khomeini Spaceport comes in the wake of Iranian state media offering a list of upcoming planned satellite launches in the works.

Iran’s civilian space program has been beset by a series of failed launches while IRGC, which runs its own parallel program, has successfully put a satellite into orbit last year.

IRGC announced in late April last year that Tehran had successfully launched – via a two-stage carrier – its Noor (Light) satellite into orbit 425 km above the Earth’s surface.

IRNA reported last week that developments unfold against the backdrop of the ongoing Vienna talks on JCPOA, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also called Iran nuclear deal.

That fits Tehran’s hard-line posture struck its negotiators who exasperated Western nations describing the six previous rounds of diplomacy as a “draft”.

Despite Washington being the only original signatory to the JCPOA currently outside the deal, US negotiators walked out of the negotiations earlier in December claiming Iran is not doing what’s necessary to return to compliance with the agreement.

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