Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced they had successfully launched the country’s first military satellite on Wednesday, a program that the United States alleges is a cover for its missile development.
The satellite, called the Nour, was successfully launched on April 22 on the Qased (“Messenger”) two-stage launcher from Iran’s central desert, the IRGC’s Sepahnews website said.
A photo posted on Twitter by Tasnim news, which is close to the IRGC, purported to show the launch.
The satellite “orbited the earth at 425 km (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 U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a deal that froze Iran’s nuclear program, before issuing new demands that Tehran curtail its development of ballistic missiles.
Washington has also raised concerns in the past about Iran’s satellite program, 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 United Nations Security Council resolution.
Tensions escalated again in January when the U.S. killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, in a drone strike in Iraq.
The U.S. Department of Defense last week accused Iran of “dangerous and provocative” actions in the Persian Gulf.
It said 11 Guards boats “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns” of U.S. vessels in international waters.
Iran said the U.S. gave a “Hollywood” account of the encounter and warned it that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”
The Islamic republic, battling the world’s deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak at the same time as dealing with crippling US sanctions, has accused Washington of “economic terrorism.”
Tehran says the punitive measures have denied it access to the medicines and medical equipment it needs to fight the virus.
Iran says the disease has claimed the lives of nearly 5,300 people and infected almost 85,000 since the outbreak emerged on February 19.
The number of Iranians killed and sickened by the virus is widely thought to be much higher, however.
Iran has requested a $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to help it tackle the outbreak.
But the U.S., which effectively holds a veto at the IMF, has signaled it has no intention of agreeing to such a line of credit.
With reporting from AFP