Tehran Reportedly Getting Ready for Space Satellite Launch Amid Vienna Talks on Iran Nuclear Deal

© AFP 2022 / STR/VAHIDREZA ALAIIranian flag fluttering in front of Iran's Safir Omid rocket, which is capable of carrying a satellite into orbit, before it's launch in a space station at an undisclosed location in the Islamic republic
Iranian flag fluttering in front of Iran's Safir Omid rocket, which is capable of carrying a satellite into orbit, before it's launch in a space station at an undisclosed location in the Islamic republic - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
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In early December, Iranian media outlets reported that Tehran's civilian space programme stipulates launching four satellites, including one that was described as being "under the final phase of preparation".
Tehran appears to be getting ready for a space satellite launch amid the Vienna talks on the Iran nuclear deal, according to several satellite images showing alleged activity at the Islamic Republic's Imam Khomeini Spaceport.
One image published by the private San-Francisco-based company Planet Labs, Inc. and obtained by the news agency AP reportedly showed a support vehicle and hydraulic crane that AP claimed appeared at the site ahead of previous launches.
© AP Photo / Planet Labs IncIn this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., a support vehicle stands parked alongside a massive white gantry that typically houses a rocket on the launch pad as activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021.
In this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., a support vehicle stands parked alongside a massive white gantry that typically houses a rocket on the launch pad as activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
In this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., a support vehicle stands parked alongside a massive white gantry that typically houses a rocket on the launch pad as activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021.
In another picture, a purported uptick in the number of cars is seen at the launch pad, according to AP.

The news outlet cited Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, as arguing that all this is "fairly traditional pre-launch activity".

© AP Photo / Planet Labs Inc. In this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021.
In this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
In this satellite photo by Planet Labs Inc., activity is seen at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan Province, Iran, Saturday, 11 December 2021.
The claims follow the Iranian state-run news agency, IRNA, reporting on 5 December, that Iran's space programme allegedly had four satellites ready for launch, including the low-orbit imaging satellite Zafar 2, which is "under the final phase of preparation".
The reported developments unfold against the backdrop of the ongoing Vienna talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Earlier in December, US negotiators walked out of the negotiations, claiming Iran "does not seem to be serious about doing what's necessary to return to compliance", despite Washington being the only original signatory to the JCPOA currently outside the agreement.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, in turn, pointed the finger at Washington, insisting that "the US reluctance to fully abandon the sanctions is the major challenge to progress in the [Vienna] talks".
In 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew the US from the JCPOA after accusing Iran of breaching the agreement.
In the wake of Washington's exit, Iran discarded the constraints on its nuclear programme as the White House began a "maximum pressure" campaign that saw a number of sanctions imposed on Tehran. US President Joe Biden has signalled his administration's readiness to return to the Iran deal.

2020 Satellite Launch by Iran

In late April 2020, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that Tehran had successfully launched its Noor (Light) satellite into orbit 425 kilometres above the Earth's surface via a two-stage carrier.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi at the space research center in Tehran, Iran - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.02.2020
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Shortly thereafter, then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that Iran should "be held accountable for what it's done", claiming that the launch violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
The document, however, does not prohibit Iran from launching satellites, but rather calls upon the country to avoid testing and launching any type of ballistic missiles, including those used in space programmes.
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