Iran Says Rocket Launch Sent 3 ‘Research Payloads’ Into Space 

Iran has used a satellite launch rocket to send three research devices into space, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Thursday, as indirect U.S.-Iran talks take place in Austria to try to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal. 

He did not clarify whether the devices had reached orbit. 

Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programs in the Middle East, has suffered several failed satellite launches in the past few years due to technical issues. 

Spokesman Ahmad Hosseini said the Simorgh satellite carrier rocket, whose name translates as “Phoenix”, had launched the three research devices at an altitude of 470 kilometers (290 miles). He did not give further details. 

“The intended research objectives of this launch were achieved,” Hosseini said, in comments broadcast on state television. “This was done as a preliminary launch … God willing, we will have an operational launch soon.” 

Iranian state television showed footage of what it said was the firing of the launch vehicle. 

Thursday’s reported space launch comes as Tehran and Washington hold indirect talks in Vienna in an attempt to salvage a nuclear accord that Iran reached with world powers and that former U.S. president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. 

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s civilian space agency and two research organizations in 2019, claiming they were being used to advance Tehran’s ballistic missile program. 

Tehran denies such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development. 

Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and its Rasad (Observation) satellite was also sent into orbit in June 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite, Navid (Promise), into orbit. 

In April 2020, Iran said it successfully launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit, following repeated failed launch attempts in the previous months. 

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