Iran said Sunday it successfully launched three satellites into space with a rocket that had multiple failures in the past, the latest for a program that the West says improves Tehran's ballistic missiles.
The launch comes as heightened tensions grip the wider Middle East over Israel’s continued war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, sparking fears of a regional conflict.
While Iran has not intervened militarily in the conflict, it has faced increased pressure within its theocracy for action after a deadly Islamic State suicide bombing earlier this month and as proxy groups like Yemen's Houthi rebels conduct attacks linked to the war. Meanwhile, Western nations remain worried about Iran's rapidly expanding nuclear program.
Footage released by Iranian state television showed a nighttime launch for the Simorgh rocket. An Associated Press analysis of the footage showed that it took place at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province.
“The roar of the Simorgh (rocket) resonated in our country’s sky and infinite space," said Abbas Rasooli, a state TV reporter, in the footage.
State TV named the launched satellites Mahda, Kayhan-2 and Hatef-1. It described the Mahda as a research satellite, while the Kayhan and the Hatef were nanosatellites focused on global positioning and communication respectively. Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister Isa Zarepour said the Mahda had already sent signals back to Earth.
There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, a satellite-carrying rocket. The Simorgh, or “Phoenix,” rocket failures have been part of a series of setbacks in recent years for Iran's civilian space program, including fatal fires and a launchpad rocket explosion that drew the attention of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The footage showed the rocket launched Sunday bore the slogan “We Can" in Farsi, likely referring to the previous failures.