Iran ‘launches satellite into space’ amid Western fears over nuclear threat

World

Iran claims to have successfully launched a third military satellite into orbit.

The launch could further escalate tensions with Western nations, which fear its space technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

The Noor-3 imaging satellite was orbiting 450km (280 miles) above the Earth’s surface, Iran’s communications minister Isa Zarepour said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

It was unclear when the launch took place.

Image:
The satellite will collect data and images, Iran says. Pic: IRIB/AP

The launch was carried out by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, with top commander General Hossein Salami telling state TV the launch had been a “victory” and the satellite would collect data and images.

Authorities released footage of a rocket taking off from a mobile launcher.

Tensions over Iran’s space programme

The Revolutionary Guard operates its own space programme and military infrastructure, in parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces, and answers only to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It launched its first satellite into space in April 2020, but the head of the US Space Command later dismissed it as a “tumbling webcam” that would provide no vital intelligence.

The US has alleged Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment claims the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the timeline” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile because it uses similar technology.

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Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its space programme and nuclear activities are purely for civilian purposes.

Tensions among Western nations are already high over Iran’s nuclear programme, which has steadily advanced since five years ago. Then, former US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and restored crippling sanctions.

Efforts to revive the agreement faltered more than a year ago and since then the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons grade levels to build “several” nuclear weapons should it choose to do so.

Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the last decade and in 2013, it launched a monkey into space.

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