On Wednesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said it had successfully launched and placed the country’s first military satellite, dubbed Nour-1 (Light-1), into orbit.
The satellite was launched via the Qassed (Carrier) satellite carrier during an operation that was staged in Dasht-e Kavir, Iran’s sprawling central desert. The satellite was placed into orbit 425 kilometers above Earth’s surface.
Following the announcement, US Air Force General John Hyten, who is the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington was tracking the launch closely.
Later in the day, the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) said in a tweet that it had tracked two objects in orbit that were launched from within Iran, one being the carrier and the other the satellite itself.
Subsequently, the US Space Command, the new organizational structure within the Pentagon that has overall control of military space operations, said in a tweet that it was “closely monitoring Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran needed “to be held accountable” for the launch, claiming that the move violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.
Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal between Iran and six other countries — from which the US later withdrew — “called on” Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” but did not prohibit Tehran from launching satellites.
Furthermore, under other international law, including those governing space-related activities, all countries are allowed the right to the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
Nour-1 is Iran’s first multi-purpose satellite with application in the defense industry, among other areas.
The launch operation was carried out by the IRGC’s Aerospace Division. The agency said the country’s aerospace program was expected to gather pace following the launch.
Over the next several years, it said, the country was expected to deploy its military space activities towards taking care of its relevant telecommunication purposes, including promotion of reconnaissance and safe communication capabilities.