DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran claimed Wednesday that it had successfully launched an imaging satellite into space, a move that could further escalate tensions with Western countries who fear that its space technology Can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Communications Minister Isa Zarepour said the Noor-3 satellite was placed in an orbit 450 kilometers (280 miles) above the Earth’s surface, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. It is unclear when the launch actually occurred.
There was no immediate approval of the launch or the placing of the satellite in orbit from Western officials. The US military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iran has had several failed launches in recent years.
The most recent launch was by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has had more success. Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard’s top commander, told state TV that the launch was a “victory” and would collect satellite data and images.
Officials released footage of the rocket taking off from a mobile launcher, without specifying where the launch took place. The description in the video matches a guard base near Shahroud, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of the capital, Tehran. The base is in Semnan province, which hosts the Imam Khomeini Spaceport, from which Iran’s civilian space program operates.
The Guard operates its own space program and military infrastructure in parallel with Iran’s regular armed forces and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It launched its first satellite into space in April 2020. But the head of US Space Command later dismissed it as a “wobbly webcam in space” that would not provide vital intelligence. Western sanctions prevent Iran from importing advanced spying technology.
The United States has alleged that Iran’s satellite launch disregarded a UN Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to take any activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment claims that the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the timeline” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile because it uses similar technology.
Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its space program, like its nuclear activities, is entirely for civilian purposes. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 sent a monkey into space. However, the program has seen recent troubles. The Simorgh program, another satellite-carrying rocket, has had five consecutive unsuccessful launches.
Three researchers died in a fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019, officials said at the time. A launchpad rocket explosion late that year caught the attention of then-President Donald Trump, who taunted Iran with a tweet that appeared to be a US surveillance photo of the site.
Tensions are already high with the West over Iran’s nuclear program, which has been rising since Trump five years ago withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reinstated crippling sanctions on Iran. Is.
Efforts to revive the agreement reached an impasse more than a year ago. Since then, the IAEA has said Iran has enough uranium enriched almost to weapons grade level to make “several” nuclear weapons if it wished to do so. Iran is also building a new underground nuclear facility that would likely be unaffected by American or Israeli air strikes. Both countries have said they will take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran has expressed a desire to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, but says the US must first ease sanctions.
The Associated Press