Iran launches space rocket
Tehran has conducted a new test of its three-stage satellite carrier rocket, according to state media, in an alleged bid to expand its national space program. The US, however, believes it to be part of a military ballistic missile research program to develop long-range nuclear strike capabilities.
The footage of the countdown and blastoff was aired by Iranian television on Sunday, but it was not clear exactly when or where the rocket was launched. The projectile is said to be a three-stage Satellite Launch Vehicle dubbed Zuljanah, which uses both solid and liquid fuels.
A spokesman for Iran’s Defense Ministry said the launch was conducted for “predetermined research purposes,” and claimed it proved that Zuljanah is competitive with the world’s top satellite carriers in technical aspects, according to Press TV. The 25.5-meter-long rocket is reportedly designed to carry a single 220-kilogram or multiple smaller satellites into orbit.
Iran launches ZulJanah satellite carrying rocket from the Imam Khomeini space center southeast of Semnan. pic.twitter.com/6Eeuw3VHv4— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) June 26, 2022
While the take-off appeared to go smoothly, as it did during a sub-orbital flight last February, the Defense Ministry did not clarify if the latest test was successful or whether it carried any satellites.
The White House immediately expressed concerns over the launch, calling the move “unhelpful and destabilizing.”
Washington seeks to impose restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program as part of any future nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
Iran has invested heavily in rocket technology for military application, citing the need for a credible conventional missile deterrence against the US and its regional allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Being able to place satellites into orbit would be beneficial to the Iranian military, boosting its surveillance and communication capabilities.
Washington has repeatedly accused Tehran of using rocket launches to test technologies required for an intercontinental ballistic missile – a delivery vehicle that Iran could use to pose a threat to the US mainland if paired with a nuclear warhead.
In 2018, the administration of then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil, petrochemicals, shipping, and other sectors. After succeeding Trump in the White House, Joe Biden expressed his eagerness to restore the agreement, with hopes of expanding it to also include Tehran’s regional activities and ballistic missile program.
Talks between Iran and the world powers briefly resumed, but stalled again in March after a year of negotiations. Iran demanded guarantees from Washington that any future US president would not withdraw from a new agreement.