While Iran says it space program is peaceful, its satellite-launch program is operated by the Defense Ministry, feeding suspicions among Western intelligence agencies that Tehran is covertly developing weapons capabilities through the program. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It said the rocket was a Simorgh, also known as the Safir-2 (or translated from Farsi as "Phoenix"). State television showed footage of the firing of the rocket, mounted on a launch-pad carrying the pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran frequently announces technological breakthroughs that are hard to independently verify.
"Iran's decision to test this rocket, as the Trump administration is reviewing its overall Iran policy is telling", he said. Under the agreement, which does not expressly prohibit missile tests, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Based on the mock-ups Iran has displayed, the Simorgh does not have the range or power to carry a nuclear warhead as far as the United States, but it could be an evolutionary step on the way to creating such a vehicle.
Iran has pursued a satellite launch program for years.
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The U.S. and allies expressed concern with the same technology that can be used to create long-range missiles. In 2013, the country said it successfully launched a monkey into space and was later able to retrieve the animal alive. Plans to put human astronauts in orbit were recently abandoned, ostensibly due to the cost.
"You would've thought they would've said 'thank you, United States. Progress in Iran's space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies", the report said.
The launch had been in the works since at least late January, when Iran scrubbed a launch of the Simorgh for an unspecified reason. "Believe me", Trump stated earlier this week regarding Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal. The Simorgh had a suborbital test flight in April 2016.
Just like Iran's previous satellite launches, the latest move drew widespread criticism from the West, with the U.S. describing the move as a "provocative action" that violated the "spirit" of 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers.
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