Rocket Sent to Space With Three Research Payloads Claims Iran

The U.S. wary about tech being used to further ballistic missiles.
Ameya Paleja
Illustration of a rocket launchAlexyz3d/ iStock

Iranian state media broadcasted a video of a satellite-carrying rocket blasting off to space from the Imam Khomeini Spaceport and hailed it "an achievement by Iranian scientists," Al Jazeera reported. The media report comes amidst the U.S. government's efforts to reengage Iran into the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump walked out of in 2018. 

The nuclear deal aimed at reigning in Iranian's nuclear weapon development program by keeping its enriched uranium stocks to a bare minimum and enrichment levels at lesser than 4 percent. However, after the U.S. withdrew from the deal and imposed economic sanctions on the Asian nation, Iran has increased enrichment levels to 60 percent, a step short of 90 percent enriched weapons-grade uranium, Wall Street Journal reported. The two nations have been in talks since November to reagree on the deal which has seen little headway. 

Iran's conventional missile development program was not part of the 2015 deal. However, U.S. intelligence suspects that the country is developing ballistic missiles which, coupled with nuclear warheads presents a threat in the region, WSJ reported. While diplomats took a break for the New Year, the news of the rocket launch might make further negotiations difficult. 

Video footage shared by Iranian state media showed a white rocket labeled as "Simorgh satellite carrier" blasting off from the spaceport, Reuters reported. A defense ministry spokesman speaking to the media outlet then elaborated that the launch was a preliminary one and achieved its research objectives. It carried three research devices that reached an altitude of 290 miles (470 km) and achieved a speed of 7,350 meters per second. Details on when the launch was conducted or whether the devices were placed in orbit were missing from the media briefing. 

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Reuters also reported that Iran has the biggest missile programs in the Middle East and first launched a satellite in 2009. The military wing runs its own parallel space program that also put its first military satellite in orbit in April 2020. A U.S. State Department spokesperson likened the recent satellite launch to a ballistic missile stating that both used identical technologies that were interchangeable. 

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran pointed out that the U.S. imposed sanctions prevented Iran from importing medicines and the country had to become self-sufficient, and the space program was a natural part of that effort.

Iran has denied that its space program is a cover for ballistic missile development. 

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