While Russia is busy trying to convince the world to lift the sanctions against them they are also quietly building up the capabilities of the new axis of evil. The latest example of this was seen early this morning when Russia’s Roscosmos space agency launched an Iranian satellite into orbit. The Russian Foreign Ministry hailed the event as an “important landmark in cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.” While there’s nothing technically illegal about this because nobody really “owns” space, it’s still a worrisome development. Low earth orbit is already crowded enough with high-tech cameras spying on everyone without getting the Iranians in on the act. Of course, Iran and Russia are both claiming that this is all totally innocent. (Associated Press)
A Russian rocket on Tuesday successfully launched an Iranian satellite into orbit.
The Soyuz rocket lifted off as scheduled at 8:52 a.m. Moscow time (0552 GMT) Tuesday from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.
About nine minutes after the launch, it placed the Iranian satellite called Khayyam into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.
A statement issued by the government of Iran claimed that the satellite would only be used for “environmental monitoring” and would remain fully under Tehran’s control. What does that even mean? Do they expect the world to believe that they’re just going to be monitoring climate change in their own country? That’s beyond laughable, but the real uses they will probably put that bird to are hardly a laughing matter.
The website Space.com didn’t pull any punches and called this launch exactly what it obviously was. Iran now has a spy satellite.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) August 9, 2022
Tehran insists that the satellite, which carries at least one high-resolution camera, will only be used for “civilian purposes.” But clearly, nobody is buying that story. Since Russia had to launch it for them, Moscow will probably be allowed to use it to monitor activity in Ukraine. For their part, Iran will be able to monitor what’s going on all across the Middle East, including in Israel. This will make any covert action by Israel more difficult and dangerous.
This news offers another sad reminder of a problem facing the United States that we’ve discussed here in the past. It’s no longer in doubt that America is falling behind in the race to advance satellite technology in several areas. We’ve been losing ground to China in both satellite communications and surveillance technology. Even worse, both the Russians and the Chinese have been perfecting their space combat techniques. Russia has successfully tested precision rockets capable of reaching orbit and destroying satellites. (Creating a lot of dangerous space junk in the process.) And China has launched “killer satellites” capable of hunting down and destroying other orbital vehicles.
The United States has focused its own technological advances in other areas. This dates back to a decision made during the Obama administration to pass on developing similar technologies, hoping to avoid a “war in space.” But that war may be on our doorstep soon, and we’re behind the curve.