Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Saturday launched a new satellite-carrying rocket, state TV reported, seeking to demonstrate the force’s space prowess even as anti-government protests rage across the country.
State TV said the Guard successfully launched the solid-fueled rocket — what it called a Ghaem-100 satellite carrier. Iranian state TV did not immediately show any footage of the launch. The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the carrier would be able to put a satellite weighing 80 kg (176 pounds) into orbit some 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Earth.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajjizadeh, the commander of the Guard’s aerospace division, said he hoped the Guard would soon use the rocket to put a new satellite, named Nahid, into orbit.
Iran says its satellite program, like its nuclear activities, is aimed at scientific research and other civilian applications. The US and other Western countries have long been suspicious of the program because the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.
The announcement came amid protests that have embroiled the country for seven weeks calling for overthrowing the clerical rule. Security forces, including paramilitary volunteers with the Revolutionary Guard, have violently cracked down on the demonstrations, killing some 300 people, according to rights groups.