Iran’s Revolutionary Guards announced they had successfully launched the country’s first military satellite on Wednesday, a programme that the US alleges is a cover for its missile development.
“The first satellite of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been successfully launched into orbit by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said the Guards’ Sepahnews website.
It said the satellite — dubbed the Nour — had been launched from the Qassed two-stage launcher from the Markazi desert, a vast expanse in Iran’s central plateau.
The satellite “orbited the earth at 425 kilometres (264 miles),” said the website.
“This action will be a great success and a new development in the field of space for Islamic Iran,” it added.
The surprise operation comes more than two months after Iran launched but failed to put into orbit another satellite that it said had no military dimensions.
The attempted launch on February 9 of the Zafar — “Victory” in Persian — came days before the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
Arch foes Iran and the United States have appeared to be on the brink of an all-out confrontation twice in the past year.
Long-standing acrimony between Tehran and Washington was exacerbated in 2018 when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a deal that froze Iran’s nuclear programme, before issuing new demands that Tehran curtail its development of ballistic missiles.
Washington has also raised concerns in the past about Tehran’s satellite programme, saying the launch of a carrier rocket in January 2019 amounted to a violation of limits on its ballistic missiles.
Iran maintains it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, and says its aerospace activities are peaceful and comply with a UN Security Council resolution.