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Iran claims it launched new imaging satellite into orbit

Iran claimed on Wednesday it successfully launched an imaging satellite into space, which could further ratchet up tensions with Western nations that fear its space technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran's Communication Minister Isa Zarepour said the Noor-3 satellite had been put in an orbit 450 kilometers (280 miles) above the Earth's surface, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. It was not clear when exactly the launch took place.

There was no immediate acknowledgment from Western officials of the launch or of the satellite being put into orbit. The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

This frame grab taken from a video broadcast by Iranian television on Sept. 27, 2023 shows what Iran's Communications Minister Isa Zarepour described as a Noor-3 satellite launched on a rocket from an undisclosed location in Iran.  IRIB via AP

Iran has had a series of failed launches in recent years. The most recent launch was carried out by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has had more success. Gen. Hossein Salami, the top commander of the Guard, told state TV the launch was a "victory" and that the satellite will collect data and images.

The Guard operates its own space program and military infrastructure parallel to Iran's regular armed forces and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It launched its first satellite into space in April 2020. But the head of the U.S. Space Command later dismissed it as a "tumbling webcam in space" that would not provide vital intelligence. Western sanctions bar Iran from importing advanced spying technology.

Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The program has seen recent troubles, however. There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, another satellite-carrying rocket.

Tensions are already high with Western nations over Iran's nuclear program, which has steadily advanced since former President Donald Trump five years ago withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and restored crippling sanctions on Iran.

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