TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran successfully launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, the country’s state media reported on Thursday, in what is likely the most significant step yet for the launch vehicle.
A confirmed launch of the “Simorgh” rocket would mark another step forward for the Islamic Republic’s young space program, but is likely to raise alarm among its adversaries, who fear the same technology could be used to produce long-range missiles.
Iranian state television said the rocket, whose name means “phoenix” in Persian, is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds). The report did not elaborate on the rocket’s payload. Other state-linked agencies including the semi-official Fars news agency also described the launch as successful.
Media reports did not say when the launch took place at the Imam Khomeini National Space Station in Semnan, some 220 kilometers (138 miles) east of Tehran.
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Iran frequently announces technological breakthroughs that are difficult to independently verify. It has carried out multiple tests of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles as well as other domestically produced weapons over the years.
The Simorgh is a two-stage rocket first revealed in 2010. It is larger than an earlier model known as the Safir, or “ambassador,” that Iran has used to launch satellites on previous occasions.
The launch comes as the United States has criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests, which American officials argue violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with world powers. Under the agreement, which does not expressly prohibit missile tests, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Iran has pursued a satellite launch program for years. The U.S. and its allies worry that the same technology could be…