Iranian state television said Sunday that Tehran had launched a solid-fueled rocket into space, drawing a rebuke from Washington ahead of the expected resumption of stalled talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
It's unclear when or where the rocket was launched, but the announcement came after satellite photos showed preparations at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province, the site of Iran's frequent failed attempts to put a satellite into orbit.
State-run media aired dramatic footage of the blastoff against the backdrop of heightened tensions over Tehran's nuclear program, which is racing ahead under decreasing international oversight.
Ahmad Hosseini, spokesman for Iran's Defense Ministry, said Zuljanah, a 25.5 meter-long rocket, was capable of carrying a satellite of 220 kilograms that would ultimately gather data in low-earth orbit and promote Iran's space industry. Zuljanah is named for the horse of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
The White House said it was aware of Iran’s announcement and criticized the move as “unhelpful and destabilizing.”
The launch comes just a day after the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, traveled to Tehran in a push to resuscitate negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program that have stalemated for months. A few significant sticking points remain, including Tehran's demand that Washington lift terrorism sanctions on its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.