Iran launched a rocket equipped with a satellite carrier this weekend, according to reports published by state-run media.
The Islamic Republic announced Sunday’s launch of the solid-fueled rocket despite the impending resumption of nuclear talks with the US and other world leaders.
Satellite imagery had spotted preparations for a launch earlier this month at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan province.
New #satelliteimagery from June 14, 2022 reveal probable #launch activities in progress at the Imam Khomeini Space Center southeast of #Semnan, #Iran. At the launch pad, a rocket is on a transporter preparing to be erected by a heavy-lift crane & stacked at the launch tower. pic.twitter.com/v7brdQUNkF
— Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) June 14, 2022
Iran’s Defense Ministry was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying the launch was carried out “for pre-determined research purposes” but it was not clear where or when the launch took place.
Ministry spokesperson Ahmad Hosseini said the 25.5-meter-long Zuljanah rocket, capable of carrying a 220-kilogram satellite (485 pounds) would gather data in low-earth orbit and promote Iran’s space industry.
Zuljanah is named for the horse of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
The satellite “is competitive with the world’s top satellites in terms of technical features, with two stages of solid propulsion and one stage of liquid propulsion,” Hosseini said, adding that “the third stage of the development of this satellite has started using the information obtained from this launch.”
A prior launch failed last year.
The announcement came barely 24 hours after European Union foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell told reporters the US and Iran would resume indirect negotiations over revival of the moribund 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
The US slammed the move – which further advances Iran’s ballistic missile program — calling it “unhelpful” and “destabilizing.”
The launch constitutes a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Iran to avoid activity related to ballistic missiles that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead.
US intelligence personnel said this past March that such a launch “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could indeed deliver a nuclear weapon, because the rocket uses “similar technologies.”