An Iranian cabinet minister has announced that the country will launch a satellite later on February 9, as officials in Tehran sharpened their language in connection with an annual commemoration of a turning point in the religiously fueled revolution there four decades ago.
Reports a day earlier suggested the launch had been postponed indefinitely.
But Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said early on February 9 that "the Zafar satellite will be placed in orbit today from Semnan at a speed of 7,400 kilometers," according to an IRIB news agency report cited by Reuters.
At least two Iranian satellite launches failed last year.
U.S. officials, who have pursued a "maximum pressure" policy toward Iran since Washington exited a major nuclear deal in 2018 that exchanged curbs on Iran's nuclear program for sanctions relief, have suggested Tehran's satellite program is part of a program of ballistic-missile development and that the technology could deliver nuclear warheads.
Iran rejects that accusation.
The head of Iran's national space agency, Morteza Barari, pledged on February 1 that the country would soon launch the Zafar (“Victory” in Farsi) satellite.
He said the 113-kilogram satellite would be carried by a Simorgh rocket 530 kilometers above the Earth and that it would make 15 orbits a day.
On February 8, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for further strengthening Iran's defenses, saying that "in order to impede war and put an end to the threats, one has to become strong," according to Iranian state Press TV.
The supreme leader, who holds the final say on religious and political affairs, meets with senior members of the Iranian air force on February 8 every year to mark key military defections during the country's 1979 revolution to overthrow the U.S.-backed Shah.
Barari, who is chief of the Iranian Space Agency, said manufacturing of the Zafar satellite "began three years ago with the participation of 80 Iranian scientists," adding that it was designed to remain operational for "more than 18 months."
He called it "a new step for our country" and said the satellite's primary mission would be to collect imagery to study earthquakes, prevent natural disasters, and develop agricultural resources.
Iran reportedly hopes to construct five more satellites by March 2021.