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Iran announces new space launch amid nuclear talks

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran announced yesterday it has carried out a new space launch, in a move likely to irk Western powers amid tough talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

Tehran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, drawing a sharp rebuke from Washington.

Western governments worry that satellite launch systems incorporate technologies interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

Iran insists its space programme is for civilian and defence purposes only, and does not breach the nuclear deal or any other international agreement.

United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2231 of 2015, endorsing the nuclear deal, imposed no blanket ban on Iranian rocket or missile launches.

The launching of Simorgh, or ‘Phoenix’, rocket in an undisclosed location in Iran. PHOTO: AP

Iran’s state broadcaster aired footage of a rocket rising from a desert launchpad, but gave no details of its location.

“The Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite launcher carried three research cargos into space,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini.

“The research goals foreseen for this launch have been achieved,” he added, quoted by state television.

Earlier this month, United States (US) media reported that preparations for a launch were under way at Iran’s space centre in Semnan, 300 kilometres east of Tehran.

Hosseini did not elaborate on the nature of the research, but he said the latest operation was a “preliminary launch” and that more would follow.

In February, Iran announced it had launched its most powerful solid fuel rocket to date, the Zoljanah, boasting that it can put a 220-kilogramme payload into orbit.

The US voiced concern about that launch, saying the test could boost Iran’s ballistic missile technology at a time when the two nations are inching back to diplomacy.

According to the Pentagon and satellite imagery of the Semnan centre, an Iranian satellite launch failed in mid-June, reports denied by Tehran.

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