Iran declared on Sunday the successful deployment of three satellites into space, marking a significant advancement for its space program, which Western nations contend contributes to Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities.
According to the state-run IRNA news agency, the launch showcased the effective utilization of Iran’s Simorgh rocket, overcoming previous failures.
The satellite launch coincides with escalating tensions across the broader Middle East due to Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. While Iran hasn’t directly intervened in the conflict, internal pressures within its theocracy have mounted following a recent deadly Islamic State suicide bombing and actions by proxy groups like Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Footage aired by Iranian state television depicted the nighttime launch of the Simorgh rocket. The satellites launched were named Mahda, Kayhan-2, and Hatef-1. Mahda serves as a research satellite, while Kayhan and Hatef are nanosatellites focused on global positioning and communication, respectively.
The Simorgh program, which carries satellites, has suffered five consecutive launch failures, contributing to a series of setbacks in Iran’s civilian space endeavors, including fatal accidents and rocket explosions.
The United States has criticized Iran’s satellite launches, citing violations of a UN Security Council resolution and urging Tehran to abstain from activities involving ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. However, UN sanctions linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program lapsed last October.
The US intelligence community’s 2023 worldwide threat assessment indicated that the development of satellite launch vehicles by Iran could expedite the timeline for the country to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles due to shared technology.
The US military and State Department refrained from immediate comment, although the US military has acknowledged an Iranian satellite launch conducted by the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on January 20.