- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Wednesday said it had successfully launched a multipurpose military satellite into orbit, marking a first for the paramilitary group.

The “Noor” satellite — whose name means “light” — is orbiting 425 km (264 miles) above the earth’s surface, according to state-run media.

“The acquisition of this rising technology that sends us to space and enhances the domain of our capabilities is a strategic achievement,” IRCG Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami told state television.

“Today, we can observe the world from the space, which means the expansion of the strategic data of the IRGC’s mighty defense power,” he continued.

Despite Iran’s repeated claims that it is not developing nuclear warheads, the U.S. has maintained concerns that the long-range ballistic missile technology used to launch the satellites could be part of a longer-term effort to launch nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, the IRGC made a failed attempt at launching a communications satellite that Iran claimed was intended to gather geographic imagery and data to analyze earthquakes, natural disasters and agricultural information. But the U.S. quickly warned the launch could be part of Iran’s ballistic missile development.

Iran has successfully launched three satellites since 2009, with two failed attempts last year.

The latest launch comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran and months after the U.S. killed a top Iranian military commander, which led Iran to launch a missile strike on a U.S. military base in Iraq.

On Wednesday, President Trump said he has authorized the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats that harass American ships after nearly a dozen IRGC navy boats made several “dangerous and harassing approaches” to U.S. warships conducting joint operations with Army attack helicopters in international waters, U.S. military officials said.

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