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Is Iran getting ready to launch a new satellite?

As US-Iran tensions continue to rise over the collapsing nuclear deal, the Strait of Hormuz and US sanctions, satellite images of the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Semnan province show increased activity.

Iran normally announces such launches after they’ve already happened, but the images and comments by an official about handing a satellite over to the Defense Ministry suggest an attempt will be coming soon.

Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said: “The Imam Khomeini space launch centre is usually quite empty. Now we’ve seen pictures where you can see activities at this assembly centre and something happening at the (launch) pad. If you put both together it sounds very likely there’s something that’s going to happen.”

The satellite images, taken on August 9, show activity at one facility, while the image of a launchpad indicates that workers are preparing the site for launch, according to Hinz.

This satellite launch was expected before the end of the year after Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said in July that the Regime had three more launches planned for 2019; two remote-sensing satellites and one communications satellite.

The Iranian authorities plan to have the Nahid-1 telecommunication satellite in orbit for two-and-a-half months.

On August 13, Jahromi said that the Nahid-1 was ready to be delivered to Iran’s Defense Ministry, which indicates an  imminent launch date, especially as Iran’s National Week of Government, when the Regime often inaugurates new projects, begins on August 24.

Over the past ten years, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit. The US says these launches violate a UN Security Council resolution that calls on Iran not to undertake activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have any military component, but also say that the UN resolution does not ban them from conducting such tests.

The US has become more concerned about these tests after Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal last year and took a maximum pressure approach against Iran, which included sanctions on Iran’s oil industry.

The State Department has not responded to a request for comment on the supposed launch.

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