The United States has quietly acknowledged that Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard successfully put an imaging satellite into orbit this week, despite previous criticism from Washington regarding Tehran’s ballistic missile program. The launch of the Noor-3 satellite marks the latest success for the Revolutionary Guard, following a series of failed launches by Iran’s civilian space program in recent years.
Data published by space-track.org, which is supplied by the 18th Space Defense Squadron of the U.S. Space Force, confirmed the launch on Wednesday. The satellite was placed over 450 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, as reported by Iranian state media. The rocket used in the launch was identified as a Qased, a three-stage rocket first launched by the Revolutionary Guard in 2020.
The Noor-3 satellite, which means “light” in Farsi, is said to have improved image accuracy compared to its predecessor, Noor-2. It also has thrusters that allow it to maneuver in orbit. The head of Iran’s Guard space program, Gen. Ali Jafarabadi, mentioned the possibility of using the satellite to control drones, which raises concerns for the West and Ukraine given Iran’s history of supplying bomb-carrying drones to Russia.
The United States has criticized Iran’s satellite launches, considering them in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution. The U.S. State Department spokesperson reiterated the country’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its potential threat to regional and international security. However, Iran maintains that its space program is purely civilian in nature.
Iran’s satellite program has faced challenges due to international sanctions, preventing the country from accessing commercially available imagery. As a result, Iran has developed its own homegrown satellites. The recent successful launch highlights Iran’s advancements in satellite technology and raises further concerns about its missile capabilities.
Tensions between Iran and Western nations are already high due to the country’s nuclear program. Despite efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, negotiations have reached an impasse. Iran has enough enriched uranium to potentially build nuclear weapons and is constructing an underground nuclear facility. The U.S. and Israel have stated their willingness to take military action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
In addition to its nuclear ambitions, Iran’s successful satellite launch adds to the growing concerns about its military capabilities, particularly its ballistic missile program.