Iran's Revolutionary Guard said it put the Islamic Republic's first military satellite into orbit, dramatically unveiling what experts described as a secret space program with a surprise launch Wednesday that came amid wider tensions with the US. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which the Guard called "Noor," or "Light." The US State Department and Israeli officials didn't immediately comment, while the Pentagon said it "will continue to closely monitor Iran's pursuit of viable space launch technology," per the AP. However, such a launch immediately raised concerns among experts on whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. And, as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and historically low oil prices, the missile launch may signal a new willingness to take risks by Iran.
"This raises a lot of red flags," says Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. "Now that you have the maximum pressure campaign, Iran doesn't have that much to lose anymore." On its official website, the Guard said the satellite, the first military satellite ever launched by Tehran, successfully reached an orbit of 264 miles above the Earth's surface. Hinz says based on state media images, the launch appeared to have happened at a previously unnamed Guard base near Shahroud. Iran, which long has said it doesn't seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained its satellite launches and rocket tests don't have a military component. The Guard launching its own satellite now calls that into question. More here.
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