Iran announced Thursday that it has carried out a new space launch, in a move likely to upset Western powers amid tough talks over reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
Tehran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, prompting a harsh reprimand from Washington.
Western governments fear that satellite launch systems will incorporate technologies that are interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles capable of launching a nuclear warhead.
Iran insists that its space program is for civil and defense purposes only and that it does not violate the nuclear agreement or any other international agreement.
The 2015 UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which backs the nuclear deal, did not impose any blanket ban on Iranian rocket or missile launches.
The Iranian state broadcaster broadcast images of a rocket rising from a launchpad in the desert but did not give details of its location.
“The Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite launcher carried three investigation charges into space,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini.
“The research objectives set for this launch have been met,” he added, quoted on state television.
Earlier this month, US media reported that preparations for a launch were underway at the Iranian Space Center in Semnan, 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Tehran.
Hosseini did not specify the nature of the investigation but said the latest operation was a “preliminary launch” with more to come.
Vienna talks see ‘progress’
In February, Iran announced that it had launched its most powerful solid-fuel rocket to date, the Zoljanah, with the ability to orbit a 220-kilogram (480-pound) payload.
The United States raised concerns about that launch, saying the test could boost Iran’s ballistic missile technology at a time when the two nations are slowly retreating toward diplomacy.
According to the Pentagon and satellite images from the Semnan center, an Iranian satellite launch failed in mid-June, reports denied by Tehran.
Iran’s declared new space launch comes amid ongoing talks in Vienna between the Islamic republic and world powers to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.
The deal offered Tehran much-needed relief from sanctions and reduced Iran’s nuclear activities.
But the unilateral withdrawal of then-US President Donald Trump derailed the deal and led Tehran to backtrack on its commitments under it.
Talks to revive him began in late November, and an eighth-round began on Monday.
On Thursday, Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri said “relatively satisfactory progress” had been made.
“There were some written changes on the lifting of sanctions between the two parties,” Bagheri said in a video posted by the Tasnim news agency.
The UN Security Council Resolution backing the nuclear deal did not prohibit Iran from launching missiles or rockets.
But he asked him “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia participate in the Vienna talks with Iran, while the United States participates indirectly.
“There may have been some modest progress,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.
News Source: france24