Maxar Satellite imagery from June 14th and June 13th show that a heavy lift rocket is being erected off of a transport at the Imam Khomeini Space Center, Southeast of Semnan, Iran. The rocket is seen in the vicinity of a heavy-lift crane which will position the rocket on the launch tower.
This activity suggests that the Islamic Republic will launch a rocket in the coming days. This would be the seventh launch from the Imam Khomeini space center, with the last being December 31st, 2021. Iran launched a Simorgh rocket carrying “three research cargos into space”. However, following the launch a defence ministry spokesman, Ahmad Hosseini, confirmed the mission had failed to put its three payloads into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed. That launch severely strained the current JCPOA talks which have now been paused since March 2022. The United States and allies believe that an Iranian rocket program would be indistinguishable from military purposes such as developing ballistic missile capabilities for nuclear payload deliveries.
However, the Iranian government confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Corps maintains its own rocket program which has now launched two military satellites, the last successful delivery being in March of 2022. The ‘homegrown’ satellite was launched using a Qassed rocket and placed into a 500km orbit above Earth. The three-stage Qased carried the satellite from a launch pad in Shahroud, Iran.
If the Iranian government were to launch a rocket during the delicate negotiations in Vienna concerning the JCPOA, the talks would likely collapse. Tensions are already running high after the IAEA announced three days ago that Iran has removed several dozen monitoring devices from several of their facilities, practically making the agency blind to Iranian nuclear developments. Iran has also not answered several inquires on why nuclear contamination was found at four sites not previously declared by the Iranian government. Iran has achieved 25kg of 60% enrichment of uranium, giving the Islamic Republic the capability to quickly develop weapons grade fissile material, crude enough to be delivered via aircraft or shipping container, but it’s the missile program which has lagged in significant development.