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Iran claims it ‘successfully’ launched military satellite

Iran's Simorgh launcher with the Payam satellite (Farsnews.com/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on April 22 that it launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of failed attempts.

State television and the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch on April 22, calling it “successful.”

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite but analysts said it raised concerns about whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor (light), was launched this morning from central Iran in two stages. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” state TV said.

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The IRGC on its official website said the satellite reached an orbit of 425 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

The multistage satellite launch used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space — a previously unheard-of system, according to the paramilitary group.

Tasnim added that the operation was carried from a launchpad in Dasht-e Kavir, a large desert in central Iran.

Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The launch comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States over the latter’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.

It also may signal that Iran is more willing to take chances during the current global coronavirus crisis, which has slashed oil prices to historic lows and forced many countries into an economic recession.

“This is big,” said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

“Big question now is what tech the first stage used. Solid propellant? Liquid using old Shahab 3 tech? Liquid using more sophisticated motors/fuels? This is key to establishing how worrisome the launch is from a security perspective,” he added.