Iran has successfully fired a rocket capable of delivering satellites into orbit, semi-official state media reported on Thursday, July 27. The move comes days after Iran warned the US of a response to the new economic sanctions Washington has imposed over Tehran's ballistic missile programme.
The launch vehicle, Simorgh (Pheonix), marked the official inauguration of the Imam Khomeini space centre, named after Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic republic. It is said to carry a satellite weighing 550 pounds to an altitude of 311 miles above Earth.
YJC.ir, a news organization linked to Iranian state television, broadcast the launch of the rocket, which was mounted on a launch pad carrying pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Just like Iran's previous satellite launches, the latest move drew widespread criticism from the West, with the US describing the move as a "provocative action" that violated the "spirit" of 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers. The agreement curbs Iran's uranium enrichment program and activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Speaking to media about the launch, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "We would consider that a violation of UNSCR 2231. We consider that to be continued ballistic missile development. ... We believe that what happened overnight, in the early morning hours here in Washington, is inconsistent with the Security Council resolutions."
Though Iran says its space program is peaceful, the US and its allies suspect the country is working on long-range ballistic missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads.
Speaking at a conference in Israel, Scott Kripowicz of the directorate for international affairs at Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency had said, "In this region, Iran has successfully orbited small satellites and announced plans to orbit a larger satellite using the Simorgh space-launch vehicle, which could be configured to be an ICBM". Kripowicz added, "Progress in Iran's space program could shorten the pathway to an ICBM, as space-launch vehicles use similar technologies, with the exception of their payloads".
Washington has not scrapped the landmark nuclear deal, but will possibly aim to amend it, according to the Associated Press.