Iran claims launch of satellite rocket into space; US calls it ‘provocative’
Tehran: Iran has successfully launched its most advanced air rocket into space, the country’s state media said on Thursday, which is probably even more important for the launch vehicle.
The launch of a rocket confirmed the “Simorgh” marks another step forward for the young Islamic Republic’s space program, but is likely to alert among its opponents, who fear that the same technology can be used to produce long-range missiles.
The State Department called the launch “provocation.”
Iranian state television said the rocket, whose name means “Phoenix” in Persian, is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds). The report did not elaborate on the payload of the rocket. Other state-related agencies, including the Fars semi-official news agency, also described the launch as a success.
Press reports did not say when the launch took place at the Imam Khomeini National Space Station in Semnan, about 220 kilometers (138 miles) east of Tehran.
Iran announces technological advances often difficult to verify independently. A number of ballistic missile tests have been carried out with short- and medium-range weapons and another has been produced in the country in recent years.
The Simorgh rocket is a two-step rocket that was first unveiled in 2010. It is larger than the previous model known as Safir, or “ambassador” that Iran has used to launch satellites on previous occasions.
The launch comes after the United States criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests, US officials say it violates the spirit of the nuclear agreement in 2015 that Iran struck with world powers.
As part of the agreement, which expressly prohibits missile testing, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. The United States said Thursday that a rocket was designed to be inherently capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Iran has pursued a satellite launch program for years. The United States and its allies fear that the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.
The country has sent several satellites in short orbit during the last decade and in 2013 launched a mono into space. But it recently abandoned plans to potentially send humans into orbit, saying by the end of May the cost of this was prohibitive.
The US National Airspace Intelligence Center and in a report last month that Simorgh could serve as a test bed for the development of technologies needed to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.
“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic review against the United States could lead to the field in an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a path to an ICBM because space shuttles (SLVs) use technology similar to them” , The report said.
Iran’s satellite launch program is the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense, which denied that the space program is a cover for weapons development.
The chief of the Iranian Space Agency expressed his interest in cooperating with NASA for the first time in October. Iran has offered to share its scientific results and satellite data with other countries.