Iran successfully launches satellite-carrying rocket — report
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Iran successfully launches satellite-carrying rocket — report

US has previously warned that technology in Thursday's test could be used to develop long-range missiles

Iranians take photos of the Simorgh satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
Iranians take photos of the Simorgh satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran successfully launched a satellite-carrying rocket into space on Thursday, the country’s state media reported without elaborating.

Iranian state television described the launch as involving a “Simorgh” rocket that is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds). The state media report did not elaborate on the rocket’s payload.

“Simorgh” means “phoenix” in Persian.

The website YJC.ir, which is affiliated with Iranian state television, as well as the semi-official Fars news agency, also reported the launch on Thursday, saying it was successful.

The launch comes as the United States has criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests.

Such tests are allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with world powers. However, American officials argue that they violate the spirit of the accord, which saw the Islamic Republic limit its uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Iran has pursued a satellite launch program for years. The US and its allies worry that the same technology could be used to develop long-range missiles.

The country has sent several dummy satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. But it recently abandoned plans to potentially send humans into orbit, saying in late May that the cost of doing so was prohibitive.

Iran’s satellite-launch program falls under the responsibility of the defense ministry, which has denied that the space program is a cover for weapons development.

The head of Iran’s space agency in October expressed for the first time interest in cooperating with NASA. Iran has offered to share its scientific findings and satellite data with other countries.

In February 2015, Iran announced the launch of a satellite atop a different type of rocket, known as Fajr. That launch happened while Iran was negotiating the nuclear deal.

Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)
Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, ‘Israel must be wiped out.’ (Fars News)

 

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a new sanctions bill on Tuesday targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as well as Russia and North Korea.

Thursday’s test also came as the Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Trump desperately wants to cancel, senior US officials said.

The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what Trump’s aides have called “serious flaws” in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.

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