Space: Iran's Mysterious Spy Satellite

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November 28, 2005: Iran is claiming that it's new Sina-1 photo-reconnaissance satellite is capable of performing espionage, especially against Israel. Launched in October, on a Russian rocket, the satellite was described as being used for scientific purposes only. With a three year lifetime, the Iranians described the Sina-1 camera equipment as capable of 50 meter resolution (pictures taken allow the identification of any object 50 meters wide or larger.) This is not military grade resolution. You can get better stuff from Google Earth. Russia built the 375 pound satellite, and is unlikely to have provided higher resolution (and much more expensive) camera gear. Besides, you can't get high res equipment into a satellite of that size. But Russia also has a $132 million contract with Iran, to build and launch Iran's first communication satellite, so the Russians are not saying much about the Iranian claims. The "spy satellite" claim by Iran is apparently for domestic consumption, another attempt to show the Iranian people that the country is getting its money's worth with all these expensive satellite deals, and to buff the country's anti-Israeli reputation. However, Iran is also building a second spy satellite, which Russia will launch early next year. Iran has never been shy about stealing high tech secrets, although getting their hands on all the stuff they would need for a high res bird is unlikely.

 


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