Tehran, Iran – Iran said it successfully completed a test launch of a satellite-carrying rocket below orbit – a move likely to raise tensions with the West.
State television aired footage of the rocket being fired in daylight on Monday in a desert area but it is unclear exactly when or where the launch took place.
“For the first time in the country’s space field, the first research launch of the hybrid Zuljanah satellite carrier was conducted with the aim of below-orbit testing through achieving the technology for the most powerful solid fuel engine in the country,” said Ahmad Hosseini, the spokesman for the defence ministry’s space division.
The United States fears such long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran denies the US accusation.
Zuljanah was the name of the horse of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to Hosseini, the satellite carrier uses solid fuel in its first two stages of launch and liquid fuel in the third. It can carry a satellite weighing up to 220kg (485 pounds) for 500km (310 miles), he said.
The spokesman said Zuljanah will be able to place operational satellites into orbit after it finalises its test launches, and can be launched from mobile launching pads.
Iran maintains its satellite programme, like its nuclear programme, is aimed at peaceful applications.
But the United States and other Western powers have for long held suspicions that the programme could have military applications for missile development.
In April 2020, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps successfully launched the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite – dubbed Nour or “light” – after two failed launches and a launchpad rocket explosion.