Iran Says It Launched a Military Satellite Into Orbit

Iran Says It Launched a Military Satellite Into Orbit

TEHRAN — The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran said on Wednesday that it had launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of unsuccessful efforts that raised the specter of outside sabotage.

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the announcement, which came amid wider tensions between Iran and the United States. The Guards said it was the first military satellite ever launched by Iran.

The State Department and the Pentagon, which say that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On their official website, the Guards said the satellite, which they called Noor, or light, had successfully reached an orbit of about 265 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The two-stage satellite launch took place in Iran’s Central Desert, the Guards said, without elaborating. They said a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier, a previously unheard-of system, had been used to put the device into space.

The announcement comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing Iran nuclear deal, and months after an American drone strike killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, a top Guards commander, in January.

Iran has had several failed satellite launches in recent months. The latest came in February, when Iran failed to put its Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit.

That failure came after two failed launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites last year, as well as a launchpad rocket explosion in August. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in February 2019 also killed three researchers, the authorities said at the time.

The rocket explosion in August drew the attention of President Trump, who later tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure. The successive failures raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran’s program, something Mr. Trump himself hinted at by saying that the United States “was not involved in the catastrophic accident.”

The United States alleges that such satellite launches defy a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. American officials, as well as European nations, worry that these launches could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained that its satellite launches and rocket tests did not have a military component.

Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit, and in 2013 it launched a monkey into space.

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