Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s powerful militia, the Revolutionary Guard, launched a new rocket carrying a satellite on Saturday, state television reported.
Iranian state television said security forces had successfully launched a solid-fuel rocket, dubbed the Ghaem-100 satellite carrier, and showed dramatic footage of the rocket taking off from a desert launch pad into cloudy skies. The report does not reveal a location similar to the Imam Khomeini spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the carrier could orbit a satellite weighing 80 kg (176 lb) about 500 km (310 miles) from Earth.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guard’s aerospace division, said the Guard hopes to soon use the rocket to launch a new satellite, named Nahid, into orbit.
Iran says its satellite program is intended for scientific research and other civilian uses, similar to its nuclear activities. The United States and other Western countries have long been skeptical of the program, as the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.Previous launch drew condemnation from US
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. However, the program has been having issues recently. Five consecutive failed launches of the Simorgh program, another satellite-carrying rocket.
Authorities said at the time that three researchers had died in a fire at the Imam Khomeini spaceport in February 2019. A launch pad rocket explosion occurred later that year, attracting the attention of former President Donald Trump.
The security guard’s announcement came in the seventh week of protests sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained on suspicion of violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
The protests that have engulfed the country, initially focused on state-mandated headscarves, or hijabs, have quickly transformed into one of the biggest challenges for the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Protesters overthrow clerical rule and cry for the death of the supreme leader.
Security forces, including paramilitary volunteers from the Revolutionary Guard, cracked down on the demonstrations, killing more than 300 people, according to rights groups.
On Saturday, Iran’s student union reported protests at at least six major universities across the country. Universities have been at the center of unrest, fueling protests despite crackdowns.
Anger at Iran’s ailing economy, suffocated by US sanctions and years of mismanagement, has also driven people to the streets. Negotiations to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers that granted Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for a strict curb on its nuclear program stalled months ago.
Iran’s currency, the rial, plunged to an all-time low against the dollar on Saturday. Iran’s currency was trading at 360,000 rials to the dollar, compared with 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal.