DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will launch a satellite into orbit by the end of this week, a government minister said on Monday, as part of a fledging program that the United States says is a cover for ballistic missile development.
“We are not afraid of failure and we will not lose hope. With your prayers and trust in God, the Zafar satellite by the end of this week … will be heading toward an orbit of 530 km from Earth,” Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted.
Iran had at least two failed satellite launches last year.
The United States fears long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran denies that satellite activity is a cover for missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran following Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from an international accord designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump said the nuclear deal did not go far enough and did not include restrictions on Tehran’s missile program.
Tensions have reached the highest level in decades between Iran and the United States after Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3, prompting Iran to retaliate with a missile attack against a U.S. base in Iraq.
Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and the Rasad (Observation) satellite was sent into orbit in June 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite Navid (Promise) into orbit.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Alison Williams and Pravin Char)