Tehran, Iran – Iran has tested its Zuljanah satellite launcher for a second time for research purposes, according to state media.
Iranian media on Sunday quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying the satellite vehicle was launched with a suborbital target, and that data gathered from the launch would inform a third planned launch.
State television aired footage of the launch, which appeared to proceed without trouble, but there was no confirmation whether it was successful.
The launch comes after weeks of speculation as satellite images had appeared to show that Iran was preparing for a launch at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in the province of Semnan.
Several Iranian aerospace specialists have died in mysterious circumstances in recent weeks. It is unclear if there is any connection.
The Iranian defence ministry, in charge of the Zuljanah launch, said one of them, 33-year-old Mohammad Abdous, was its employee and he died while “on mission” in Semnan, without elaborating further.
Iranian officials had not made any comments before the launch. There was no confirmation on when the launch took place.
The latest launch of Zuljanah – which is named after the horse of the third imam in Shia Islam, Imam Hussein – comes months after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully put a second military satellite, called the Noor 2, into orbit in March. At the time, the elite forces said Noor 2 is orbiting at an altitude of 500km (311 miles).
Iran launched its first military satellite, the Noor, meaning light, in an orbit 425km (265 miles) above the earth’s surface in 2020.
The United States has previously expressed concern over Iran’s satellite programme, saying the same long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used by Tehran to launch long-range weapons, possibly even a nuclear warhead.
Iran, however, has consistently rejected such warnings. It maintains that its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful.
The news of the launch comes a day after the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, on a trip to Tehran, agreed with Iranian officials to restart talks with the US to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers.
If successful, the talks can lift most of the harsh sanctions that the US has imposed on Iran since 2018, when Washington unilaterally abandoned the accord. In exchange, Iran will reinstate significant curbs on its nuclear programme that it had agreed to as part of the original accord.