Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched a research satellite Saturday, a minister said, putting it into a higher orbit in a new milestone for its aerospace programme that has faced Western criticism.
The United States has repeatedly warned Iran against such launches, saying the same technology can be used for ballistic missiles, including ones designed to deliver a nuclear warhead.
The Islamic republic says its satellite and rocket launches are only for civil or defence purposes, denying any ambition to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
“The Soraya satellite of the Iranian Space Organisation… was successfully launched with the Ghaem-100 satellite carrier of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the official IRNA news agency said.
“This is the first time that Iran has successfully placed a satellite in orbits higher than 500 kilometres (310 miles),” IRNA said.
The news agency cited Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour as saying that the satellite, which weighs about 50 kilograms (110 pounds), was put in orbit 750 kilometres above Earth
The Ghaem-100 carrier rocket is manufactured by the aerospace organisation of the powerful Revolutionary Guards. It is the country’s first three-stage solid-fuel satellite launcher.
While Tehran has struggled with several satellite launch failures in the past, the successful launch of its first military satellite Nour-1, into orbit in April 2020, drew a sharp rebuke from the United States.
Other Western governments have voiced similar concerns about Iran’s aerospace programme.
Tehran has been under crippling US sanctions since Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal which granted Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear activities, designed to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.