Iran claimed on Wednesday that it had successfully launched a satellite that takes pictures of Earth, a move that could raise tensions with Western countries that fear its space technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Communications Minister Isa Zarepour said the Noor-3 satellite was launched into orbit 450 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
It was not clear when the satellite was launched.
The launch of the satellite or its placement in orbit was not confirmed by Western officials.
The United States military did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press news agency.
In recent years, Iran has failed several times to launch satellites.
The latest satellite was launched by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. General Hossein Salami, commander of the Guards, told state television that the launch had been “a victory” and that the satellite will collect data and photographs.
Authorities released footage of a rocket being launched from a mobile missile launch facility, but did not specify where the launch took place.
Details from the shared video suggest it may have been fired from the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard base in Shahroud, about 300 kilometers northeast of the capital, Tehran. The base is located in the Semnan region, where the Imam Khomeini space launch base is located, where Iran’s civilian space program is implemented.
The paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has its own space program and military structure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It launched the first satellite into space in April 2020. But the head of the United States Space Command played it down, saying it would not provide important data.
Sanctions imposed by Western countries prohibit Iran from importing advanced surveillance technology.
The United States says Iran’s launch of satellites violates a United Nations Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying and using nuclear warheads.
According to a US intelligence estimate in 2022, the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the time frame” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile because the technology is the same.
Iran has consistently denied it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and says its space program, like its nuclear activities, is for civilian purposes.
US intelligence services and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003.
Tensions with Western countries over Iran’s nuclear program are high. Tehran’s nuclear program has progressed steadily since Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers five years ago and reimposed heavy-handed sanctions on Tehran.
Efforts to revive the deal stalled more than a year ago.
Since then, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran has enough enriched uranium to build “a range” of nuclear weapons, should it choose to do so.
Iran is also building an underground nuclear base, likely to be invulnerable to airstrikes by the United States or Israel.
Both countries have said they will take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran has expressed willingness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, but says the United States must first ease sanctions.