Iran is preparing for the launch of two small communications satellites, Zafar 1 and Zafar 2, from the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran.
The country's communication's minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, confirmed the launch after NPR editor Geoff Brumfiel first reported on the likelihood of the upcoming mission. Iran has even created a website for the satellites, called "Zafar and me," for people to upload messages for the spacecraft to transmit back to Earth.
The satellites will likely launch on the Safir-1 or Safir-2 rocket, which reportedly have capacities of 65kg and 350kg to low-Earth orbit. Combined, the vehicles have a checkered history, with four known successes and four known failures during the last 12 years.
Last August, after a Safir-1 rocket accident on the launch pad, US President Donald Trump posted a photoof the space center revealing damage done to the facility by the explosion. The release was notable because the president shared a photo from the secretive National Reconnaissance Office, which maintains a fleet of high-value Earth observation satellites and whose capabilities are not entirely known outside of classified circles.
The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One. pic.twitter.com/z0iDj2L0Y3
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
The United States and Iran have clashed over the nation's rocket program. American officials contend the program is part of an effort to develop ballistic missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons to distant foreign targets. The Iranian government says its space program serves peaceful purposes.
According to The New York Times, the Central Intelligence Agency has conducted a sabotage program since the George W. Bush administration to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains. This program received new resources under the Trump administration. This report added some additional intrigue to Trump's tweet in August, when he shared the photo and said the United States was not involved in the "catastrophic accident."