Iran is soon to launch two satellites which will reportedly take images "with a high degree of accuracy of less than 10 meters" (azernews).

What will these satellites be imaging?


Since the best information we have is quoted from a news article, this is going to be an exercise in speculation and deduction. First, let's assume "a high degree of accuracy of less than 10 meters" puts the possible spatial resolution range at 10-30 meters or so (note: I'm going on the assumption that the use of the term "accuracy" is just typical misreporting, and what they're really referring to is "resolution"). What does this buy you? The below image from this nifty website will help visualize:

spatial resolution

Now, while there are certainly things larger than a house that are of military interest, this will not exactly provide you with detailed intelligence - you could do much better with Google Maps, for instance, whose high-resolution imagery is <1 meter.

So... what's the point? Well, there are plenty of other things you can do with satellite imagery. The SPOT-5 satellite has similar resolution, and is marketed as

a key asset for applications such as medium-scale mapping (at 1:25 000 and 1:10 000 locally), urban and rural planning, oil and gas exploration, and natural disaster management.

If you happen to be collecting multispectral imagery, you can do even more interesting things, particularly in the name of science. NASA's LANDSAT imagery is of even lower spatial resolution, but is very information-rich, as it does not include only visible light.

The small size of Iran's satellite (<50 kg according to the article) indicates that it may be more of a technology demonstration mission as opposed to a large, mature, operational system, which makes sense. While a domestic satellite imagery capability is obviously of interest to a country like Iran, there are no doubt several other components, systems, and processes that will be demonstrated, all in the name of technological maturation.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great answer, and excellent analysis from the scant information we had available! $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 18 '13 at 12:22

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