The Iranian regime launched a new satellite and concerns grow over the advancement of its missile program

The Soraya satellite reached its orbit about 750 kilometers from the Earth’s surface with a three-stage Qaem 100 rocket

Iran announced on Saturday that successfully launched a satellite into its highest orbit yet, the latest episode of a program that the West fears could improve Tehran’s ballistic missiles.

The announcement comes at a time of great tension in the Middle East due to the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Stripand just days after Iran and Pakistan engaged in mutual airstrikes.

He Soraya satellite It reached its orbit about 750 kilometers from the Earth’s surface with a Qaem 100 three-stage rocket, the state news agency IRNA reported, which did not immediately explain its role. The Minister of Telecommunications, Isa Zarepour, noted that the launch had a payload of 50 kilos.

The launch is part of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard space program, in addition to the civil space program, the report noted. For Western countries, This could mean that Tehran can have greater precision when launching ballistic missiles.

At the moment there was no independent confirmation that Iran had successfully placed the satellite into orbit. Neither the U.S. military nor the State Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

The United States previously stated that the launch of satellites by the Islamic Republic defies a United Nations Security Council resolution and called on Tehran not to carry out activities related to nuclear-weapon-capable ballistic missiles.

US sanctions linked to the Iranian ballistic missile program expired in October.

Iranian satellite Soraya
The participation of the Revolutionary Guard in the launches worries the West

The 2023 global threat assessment by the US intelligence community noted that The development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the deadlines” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missilesince they use similar technology.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles can be used to carry nuclear weapons. The Iranian nuclear program is now enriching uranium to a level close to that necessary to develop this type of weapons after the failure of its agreement with international powers.

Tehran has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear weaponsif it decides to produce them, as the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly warned.

Iran has always denied that its goal is nuclear weapons and maintains that its space program, like its nuclear activity, is for purely civilian purposes. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA claim that until 2003 it had an organized military nuclear program.

The participation of the Revolutionary Guard in launches, as well as the ability to fire the rocket from a mobile launch platform, worry the West. The Guard, which reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, revealed its nuclear program in 2020.

In the last decade, Iran has put several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 sent a monkey into space. But the program has suffered recent problems, such as the five consecutive failed launches of the Simorgh program, another satellite rocket.

A fire at the Imam Khomeini spaceport in February 2019 killed three researchers, authorities reported at the time. A rocket explosion at the launch pad later that year drew attention to then-US President Donald Trump, who had earlier mocked Tehran in a tweet showing what appeared to be a US surveillance photo of the site.

In December, Iran launched a capsule capable of transporting animals into orbit as it prepares human missions for the coming years.

With information from AP