The US blasts the move as 'unhelpful and destabilizing'
Tehran has conducted a new test of its three-stage satellite carrier rocket, according to state media, in an alleged bid to expand its national space program. Washington, however, believes it to be part of a military ballistic missile research to obtain long-range nuclear strike capabilities.
The footage of the countdown and blastoff was aired by Iranian television on Sunday, but it was not clear exactly when or where the rocket was launched. The rocket is said to be a three-stage Satellite Launch Vehicle dubbed Zuljanah, which uses both solid and liquid fuels.
A spokesman for Iran's Defense Ministry, said the launch was conducted for "predetermined research purposes," and claimed that it proved that Zuljanah is competitive with the world's top satellite carriers in technical aspects, according to Press TV. The 25.5 meter-long rocket is reportedly designed to carry a single 220-kilogram or multiple smaller satellites into orbit.
While the take-off appeared to go smoothly, just like during the rocket's sub-orbital flight last February, the defense ministry didn't clarify if the latest test was successful or whether it carried any satellites.
The White House has immediately expressed concerns over the launch, calling the move as "unhelpful and destabilizing," as Washington seeks to impose restrictions on the country's ballistic missile program as part of any future nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
Iran invested heavily into rocket technology for its military application, saying that it needed a credible conventional missile deterrence against the US and its regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Being able to place satellites into orbit would be beneficial to the Iranian military, boosting its surveillance and communication capabilities.
Washington repeatedly accused Tehran of using space launches to test technologies required to create an intercontinental ballistic missile - a delivery vehicle that Iran could use to pose a threat to the US mainland if paired with a nuclear warhead.
In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump's administration unilaterally left the deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran, targeting its oil, petrochemicals, shipping and other sectors. After succeeding Trump in the White House, Joe Biden expressed his eagerness to restore the agreement, with hopes to expand it to also include Tehran's regional activities and ballistic missile program.
The talks between Iran and the world powers briefly resumed, but stalled again in March after a year of negotiations. Iran demanded guarantees from Washington that any future US president would not withdraw from a new agreement.