Iran hails military satellite launch as US tensions simmer



An Iranian woman looks at Taer-2 missiles during a street exhibition by Iran's army and IRGC during 'Defence Week' at the Baharestan Square in Tehran, on September 26th, 2019. [STRINGER/AFP]

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday (April 22nd) announced they had successfully launched the country's first military satellite, at a time of renewed tensions with US forces in the Gulf.

The US alleges Iran's satellite programme is a cover for its development of missiles. The Islamic republic has previously insisted its aerospace activities comply with its international obligations.

Tensions between the two nations escalated last week with the US accusing Iran of harassing its ships in the Gulf.

The IRGC claimed the surprise launch of the "Nour" satellite, from the Markazi desert in Iran's central plateau, was a milestone for the country.

State television aired footage of what it said was the satellite mounted on a rocket for Wednesday's launch.

The rocket bore the name Qassed, meaning "messenger", in what appears to be the first time Iran has used a launcher of this type.

There was no way to independently verify the launch.

Iran has repeatedly tried and failed to launch satellites in the past.

The most recent was on February 9th, when it said it launched but was unable to put into orbit the Zafar, whose name means "victory" in Farsi.

Iran and the US have appeared to be on the brink of an all-out confrontation twice in the past year.

The US Department of Defence last week accused Iran of "dangerous and provocative" actions in the Gulf. It said 11 IRGC boats "repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns" of US vessels in international waters.

The US also has raised concerns in the past about Tehran's satellite programme, saying the launch of a carrier rocket in January 2019 amounted to a violation of limits on its ballistic missiles.

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