Iran Launches Three Satellites Amid Western Criticism

On Sunday, Iran announced the successful launch of three satellites into space, a move that the West argues contributes to Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities. The state-run IRNA news agency reported the achievement and noted the successful deployment of Iran’s Simorgh rocket despite its history of multiple failures.

The launch coincides with increased tensions in the broader Middle East due to Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Although Iran has refrained from direct military involvement in the conflict, it has encountered mounting pressure within its theocratic leadership to take action. This pressure has intensified following a recent deadly Islamic State suicide bombing earlier this month and as proxy groups such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels carry out attacks associated with the war.

Iranian state television has released footage depicting the nighttime launch of the Simorgh rocket.

An examination of the video’s specifics by the Associated Press revealed that the launch occurred at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport, situated in Iran’s remote Semnan province.

State television announced that the launched satellites were named Mahda, Kayhan-2, and Hatef-1. The Mahda satellite was described as a research satellite, while the Kayhan and Hatef were nanosatellites designed for global positioning and communication purposes.

This marks the fifth consecutive unsuccessful launch for the Simorgh program, which is another rocket used for satellite deployment.

The Simorgh, also known as the “Phoenix,” has experienced a string of setbacks in recent years within Iran’s civilian space program. These setbacks include fatal fires and a rocket explosion on the launchpad that garnered the attention of former President Donald Trump.

Previously, the United States has stated that Iran’s satellite launches contravene a UN Security Council resolution and has urged Tehran to refrain from engaging in any actions related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

UN sanctions pertaining to Iran’s ballistic missile program lapsed in October of last year.

According to the 2023 global threat assessment by the US intelligence community, the advancement of satellite launch vehicles by Iran accelerates the potential development of an intercontinental ballistic missile, as it shares similar technology.

Requests for comment from the U.S. military and the State Department remained unanswered initially.

Nonetheless, the U.S. military has privately acknowledged the successful Iranian satellite launch that took place on January 20.