Iran said it put its first military satellite into orbit Wednesday, making it an emerging “world power”, as US President Donald Trump issued a new threat amid rising naval tensions in the Gulf.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps broke the news of what it said was its own satellite launch, hailing it as a milestone for the country’s space programme.
“Today, we are looking at the Earth from the sky, and it is the beginning of the formation of world power,” the Guards’ commander Hossein Salami said, quoted by Fars news agency.
The United States alleges that Iran’s satellite programme is a cover for its development of missiles, including ones that could one day carry nuclear warheads.
Iran maintains it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, and says its aerospace activities are peaceful and comply with a UN Security Council resolution.
Tensions between the arch foes again escalated last week with the US accusing Iran of harassing its ships in the Gulf.
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to say he had “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”.
Sepahnews, the Revolutionary Guards’ website, said the satellite dubbed the Nour — meaning “light” in Persian — had been launched from the Markazi desert, a vast expanse in Iran’s central plateau.
The satellite “orbited the Earth at 425 kilometres (264 miles)” above sea level, said Sepahnews.
Iran’s regional rival Israel said it “strongly condemns” what it called Iran’s “attempt” to launch a military satellite.
It urged more international sanctions for what it called “a facade” for Iran’s continued development of advanced missiles, including ones that could deliver a nuclear warhead.
Trump’s hawkish former national security adviser John Bolton said the launch was “proof we are still not applying enough pressure” on Iran.
“Iran’s goal remains ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) capable of carrying nuclear weapons. They cannot be trusted,” he tweeted.
– ‘Great national achievement’ –
Iranian state television aired footage from multiple angles of a rocket blasting off into a mostly clear blue sky.
The rocket bore the name Qassed, meaning “messenger”, in what appears to be the first time Iran has used a launcher of this type.
Its fuselage also bore a koranic inscription that read: “Glory be to God who made this available to us, otherwise we could not have done it.”
There was no way to independently verify the details and timing of the reported launch.
Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi took to Twitter to congratulate the Guards’ air force, adding he had visited the launch site three weeks ago.
“They were great,” he said of the satellite and what he described as a “three-stage solid fuel” launcher.
Iran has repeatedly tried and failed to launch satellites in the past.
The most recent attempt was on February 9 when it said it launched but was unable to put into orbit the Zafar, which means “victory” in Persian.
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