Russia’s space agency launched an Iranian satellite into orbit on Monday, which will soon offer Tehran access to increased satellite imagery.
The satellite, called Khayyam after the medieval philosopher Omar Khayyam, left aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Monday morning.
Russia’s space agency provided a video of the launch, though media were prohibited from covering the event live.
Iran has claimed the satellite will be used for scientific research that includes radiation and environmental monitoring for agricultural purposes, according to Reuters. However, some are concerned that Russia could use the satellite to obtain more detailed information to help with its invasion of Ukraine, a claim Iran’s leaders have denied.
Iran said it would be in charge of the satellite “from day one,” and that it would not be used for Russian intelligence, according to an Iranian state-run official IRNA news agency.
The launch marks only the third military satellite Iran has sent into space. The nation’s previous military satellites were launched in April 2020 and March 2022.
In June 2021, The Washington Post reported that Russia was preparing to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system to improve surveillance of military targets.
“Having this kind of on-call data feed may open up technical and operational possibilities that the Iranians previously didn’t have,” Christopher Ford, the State Department’s top nonproliferation official under the Trump administration, told the Post. “It sounds like a significant upgrade, not just a slight slide up the slope in terms of potential military applications.”
The new satellite also entered orbit just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Iran to meet with leaders regarding peace in Syria. The July event also included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a related move in an announcement from Russia last month, the nation plans to leave the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, according to the nation’s new space chief.
Yuri Borisov, recently selected to lead Russia’s space agency, noted that the nation intends to fulfill its current obligations before leaving the ISS to focus on building its own space station.
“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, according to the Associated Press. “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”
The ISS is run by the space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Europe, and Canada. First launched in 1998, the station has been in operation for more than two decades.
Russia has separately announced its plans to pull out of the ISS after 2024 and build its own space station. The Russian Orbital Service Station could be active as early as 2028, according to information from the Russian space agency Roscosmos.