Russia launches Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan

The US has said it could be used for military purposes

A Soyuz rocket blasts off for the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. AP
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Iran received the first telemetry data sent by its new remote-sensing satellite launched on Tuesday by a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the official IRNA news agency said.

The "Khayyam" satellite is first project following an initially secret agreement between Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Roscosmos space agency.

The satellite, which Iran claims will be used to monitor environmental climate change, is fitted with a high-resolution camera designed by Russia as part of the Kanopus-V system.

The US has said the satellite could be used for military reconnaissance purposes to boost Moscow's surveillance operations in Ukraine.

Iran rejected the accusation, saying Tehran will have full control and operation over it "from day one".

High-resolution satellite imagery has traditionally been the preserve of the US but in recent years, Israel, China and Britain, as well as a host of commercial private imagery providers, have been able to produce extremely clear images from space.

The US government limits commercial providers of satellite imagery to providing a resolution of 30 centimetres per pixel under 2014 legislation and requires companies to clear imagery released to the public before it can go on sale.

That is about as good as the sharpest images provided by Google Earth, but commercial providers can offer more recent images of specific areas.

Classified US government satellite spy programmes are thought to be able to produce much clearer imagery — less than 10 centimetres per pixel.

That has significant reconnaissance potential, enabling military planners to clearly see enemy troop, air or naval deployments, as well as identify specific vehicles or attempts to hide facilities through the use of bunkers and camouflage — something that is next to impossible with lower-resolution imagery.

As a consequence, the US has said that Iran could use the satellite to assist Russian reconnaissance efforts in Ukraine. The US is also widely thought to be supplying Ukraine with satellite intelligence for its war effort.

But the Iranian Space Agency said on Sunday that Tehran would control the Khayyam satellite “from day one”.

“No third country is able to access the information” sent by the satellite due to its “encrypted algorithm”, it said.

The purpose of Khayyam is to “monitor the country's borders”, enhance agricultural productivity and monitor water resources and natural disasters, the space agency said.

Khayyam is being taken into orbit by a Soyuz-2.1b rocket, Russia's space agency Roscosmos said last week.

Updated: August 09, 2022, 8:22 AM