By Lorenz Duchamps
The Iranian regime announced it has launched a rocket into space carrying three research devices, the country’s state television reported on Thursday.
Ahmad Hosseini, an Iranian defense ministry spokesman, said the satellite-bearing rocket named Simorgh, or “Phoenix,” had launched the three cargoes at an altitude of 292 miles (470 km) and at a speed of 7,350 meters (4.5 miles) per second.
“The intended research objectives of this launch were achieved,” Hosseini said, in comments broadcast on state television.
“This was done as a preliminary launch … we will have an operational launch soon,” the spokesman added, without further clarifying whether the devices had successfully entered Earth’s orbit.
Previous launches conducted by the Islamic regime have drawn rebukes from the United States. Last year, the regime successfully launched its first-ever military satellite into orbit, drawing sharp criticism from Washington.
The U.S. State Department, Space Force, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programs in the Middle East, has also suffered several failed satellite launches over the past year.
According to satellite imagery obtained by The Associated Press earlier this month, Iran appeared to be preparing for a space launch. The preparation came amid the continuation of talks with world powers in Austria set to revive Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal.
The images showed preparations at the spaceport in the desert plains of Iran’s rural Semnan province, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of Tehran.
A new round of negotiations began in the capital of Austria on Dec. 27 as Iran demanded world powers to allow it to resume selling crude oil.
The eighth round of talks was convened when the Iranian negotiator came back after leaving to consult with the regime’s leaders. Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, wants Western nations to remove sanctions first before moving forward on the nuclear deal.
According to the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015, Iran agreed to dismantle its nuclear program and allow international inspectors access to nuclear sites in the country. Iran signed the JCPOA with China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany.
President Trump in 2018 withdrew the United States from the pact, citing failure from the Iranian leadership to uphold critical requirements as it bolstered military prowess. In 2017, the Islamic regime announced a 150 percent increase in its military budget and Trump criticized it for funding terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.
Moreover, Israeli intelligence had uncovered secret documents that revealed Iran had never stopped developing nuclear weapons.
Trump’s sanctions had a severe effect on the Iranian economy, leading to popular uprisings against the regime and international oil companies canceling deals with Tehran. Crude exports dropped from almost 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to as low as 200,000 bpd.
President Joe Biden has claimed that he will return to the JCPOA agreement, signed during the Obama-era, as long as Iran keeps up its end of the deal.
Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.