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Iran test launches new satellite-carrying rocket

Tehran refutes US concerns that the same long-range ballistic technology could also be used to deliver nuclear warheads.

Iran has announced the successful test flight of a rocket capable of launching satellites into space, three months after launching a satellite with the help of Russia.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concern that such launches could boost Iran’s ballistic missile technology, extending to the possible delivery of nuclear warheads.

But Iran has insisted that it is not seeking nuclear weapons and that its satellite and rocket launches are for civilian or defensive purposes only.

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State television reported the “successful suborbital launch of the satellite launcher called Ghaem-100.”

“The flight test of this launcher using the Rafe solid fuel vehicle was successfully completed,” it reported on Saturday.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard aerospace division that developed the Ghaem 100, said the rocket would be used to launch Iran’s Nahid satellite for the Telecommunications Ministry, state media reported.

Saturday’s operation tested the first suborbital stage of the rocket, the reports added.

Ghaem-100 “is capable of placing satellites weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds) in an orbit 500 kilometers (just over 300 miles) from the surface of the Earth,” he said.

Iran successfully launched its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, drawing a sharp rebuke from Washington.

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In August this year, Russia launched another Iranian satellite, called Khayyam, on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Iran’s space agency said the device was built by Russia under Iranian supervision.

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The United States alleged at the time that Khayyam would enable “significant espionage capabilities” and that a deepening alliance between Russia and Iran amounted to a “profound threat” to the world.

Iran’s space agency rejected those accusations, saying Khayyam’s purpose was to “monitor the country’s borders” and help with the management of natural resources and agriculture.

Iran, which has one of the largest missile programs in the Middle East, has had several failed satellite launches blamed on technical problems in recent years.

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