TEHRAN -- Iran used a satellite launch rocket to send three research devices into space on Thursday, a defense ministry spokesman said, suggesting the launch was a test ahead of coming attempts to put satellites into orbit.
Ahmad Husseini said the Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite carrier rocket launched the three research devices at an altitude of 470 km (290 miles) and at a speed of 7,350 meters per second.
“The intended research objectives of this launch were achieved,” Husseini said. “This was done as a preliminary launch ... God willing, we will have an operational launch soon.”
National TV showed footage of the firing of the launch vehicle from the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran at dawn.
“The payloads launched today were subsystems of satellites that were tested in vacuum conditions and high altitude as well as high acceleration and speed and the data was gathered,” Hussein said.
“By developing our capacity to launch satellites, in the near future satellites with a wide range of applications... will be placed into orbit,” Husseini said. “We will speed up work so that we can become one of the six countries that can launch satellites into the GEO (geostationary) orbit.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington was aware of reports on the launch, claiming that such launches defy a UN Security Council resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The United States remains concerned with Iran’s development of space launch vehicles, which pose a significant proliferation concern,” the spokesperson said.
Resolution 2231 was adopted on July 20, 2015, under which “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Iran contends that it has never negotiated over its missile program and that nothing in Resolution 2231 prohibits the country from its defensive missile activities, because they are not aimed at delivering nuclear weapons.
Repeated reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have certified Iran’s full compliance with the 2015 deal and the non-diversion of its nuclear program toward military aims.
The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s civilian space agency and two research organizations in 2019, claiming they were being used to advance Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Berlin also urged Iran to stop sending satellite launch rockets into space, a German diplomat said, claiming that such launches could be used to test technology for ballistic missiles which in principle could be used to deliver nuclear weapons.
“We call on Iran to refrain from
further ballistic missile launches, including satellite launchers, and to comply with its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the diplomat said.
“These activities are all the more regrettable as they come at a time when we are making progress in the nuclear negotiations in Vienna,” the French foreign ministry said Friday.
“We call on Iran not to launch further ballistic missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, including space launchers.”
Keaten Mansfield, a political analyst, told Press TV that Iran’s space exploration program shows U.S. sanctions have not been able to hamper its progress.
“This is the kind of stuff you want to be seeing out of countries. This is how you know that a country is focused on progress and development and science,” he said.
He said Iran’s scientific progress is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Islam, when Muslims flourished in mathematics and science.
“This is kind of the rebirth and revitalization that the Middle Eastern world, Eurasia, has historically been known for,” he said. “So it’s an exceptional thing to see.”
Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and its Rasad (Observation) satellite was sent into orbit in 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite, Navid (Promise), into orbit.
In April 2020, Iran said it successfully launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit.