Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launch ‘1st military satellite’ into orbit

Iran on Wednesday said it launched a military satellite into orbit amid wider tensions with the US. This, it said, was a successful launch after months of failures.

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard called “Noor”, or light.

The Guard on its official said the satellite successfully reached an orbit of 425 kilometers (264 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The two-stage satellite launch took off from Iran’s Central Desert.

The launch comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal. A US drone strike had also, in January, killed Guard General Qassem Soleimani.

The IRGC said Wednesday’s satellite launch from the remote Central Desert would “be a great success and a new development in the field of space for Islamic Iran”.

Footage broadcast by state TV showed the Qased carrier inscribed with a verse from the Koran that Muslims often recite when going on a journey: “Glory be to Him, who has subjected this to us, and we ourselves were not equal to it.”

IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brig-Gen Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said the Qased “used a compound of liquid and solid propellants” and declared: “Only superpowers have such capability and the rest are just users of such technology.”

There was no immediate comment from the Trump administration, but it has expressed concern in the past that the technology used to launch satellites could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

It has said such launches therefore violate a UN Security Council resolution, which calls upon on Iran not to “undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.

Iran has denied violating the resolution and insisted that its space programme is entirely peaceful and that it has no intention to develop nuclear weapons.

The same resolution endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that US President Donald Trump abandoned two years ago, saying it was flawed.

A Pentagon spokesman told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the US would continue to “closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology”.

“While Tehran does not currently have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), its desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to develop an ICBM,” Maj Rob Lodewick said.

In February, Iran failed to put into orbit the Zafar communications satellite.

There were two other failed satellite launches last year, as well as a mysterious explosion that destroyed a satellite launch vehicle.