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.”
The United States, Israel, and other countries did not immediately confirm the satellite reached orbit, but their criticism suggested they believed the launch happened.
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.
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 United States and Israel have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Following Iran’s latest launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done.”
“We view this as further evidence of Iran’s behavior that is threatening in the region,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told a Pentagon briefing.
General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the launched vehicle “went a very long way” but that it was too early to say whether it successfully placed a satellite in orbit.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “facade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology,” while German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger warned that “the Iranian rocket program has a destabilizing effect on the region.”
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.