Iran successfully launches three satellites at once in step forward for rocket programme

Iran successfully launches three satellites at once in step forward for rocket programme

Iran says it successfully launched three satellites into space on Sunday, the first time it has done so using a controversial rocket programme that has been heavily criticised by the West.

Sunday morning’s launch involved Iran’s domestically-produced Simorgh rocket, and was described by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard-led news agency Fars as an important test of Simorgh’s ability to accurately deliver multiple payloads into space.

The largest of the three satellites weighs 32kg and was named Mahda, while the two others were nano-satellites of less than 10kg, according to Fars.

State TV named the other two satellites Kayhan-2 and Hatef-1, described as nanosatellites focused on global positioning and communications respectively.

This is the first time Iran has successfully utilised the Simorgh rocket, having failed with its previous five launches in row. The unsuccessful attempts to launch Simorgh, or "Phoenix," had served as a serious setback for Iran’s civilian space programme, and mishaps included explosions of the launchpad and massive fires during tests.

Earlier this month, Iran placed another satellite – Soraya – in an orbit some 750 kilometres (460 miles) above the Earth’s surface with a three-stage rocket, advancing the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ space programme along with the country’s civilian astronomy ambitions.

Britain, France and Germany jointly condemend Sunday’s launch using the Ghaem-100 Space Launch Vehicle (SLV), pointing out that the SLV uses technology essential for the development of a long-range ballistic missile system. This could allow Tehran to launch longer-range weapons.

“Launches such as these allow Iran to test technology that could be used to further develop its ballistic missile programme, which poses a significant threat to regional and international security,” the joint statement read.

It added: “We have longstanding concerns over Iran’s activity related to ballistic missile technologies that are capable of delivering nuclear weapons. These concerns are reinforced by Iran’s continued nuclear escalation beyond all credible civilian justification.”

Iran said it reserved the legitimate right to peaceful technological advancement in the aerospace field.

The US has already said that Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution, asking Tehran to not undertake activities that involve ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.