After satellite photos revealed Iran’s preparations for a rocket launch, the country announced Wednesday that it plans two tests for its Zuljanah rocket.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed Tuesday activity at a desert launch pad at Imam Khomeini Space Center southeast of Semnan, prompting Iranian authorities to react and acknowledge plans for tests.
The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini as confirming the tests for the new solid-fueled rocket at the site of frequent recent failed attempts to put a satellite into orbit.
He said Iran will launch its satellite-carrying Zuljanah rocket twice more after conducting a previous launch, but he did not elaborate on a timeframe for tests nor said when the previous launch occurred.
Asked about the preparations, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the US urges Iran to de-escalate the situation, saying that Iran “has consistently chosen to take provocative actions.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, said the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.” The United States says that space launches by Iran could be a cover to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that would be able to deliver nuclear warheads.
In March, Iran suffered another failed launch of a satellite-carrying rocket attempting to reinvigorate the program criticized by the West.