Iran tested a new satellite-carrying rocket Monday with improved technology experts believe could be used in the Iranian military’s missile program.
The new Zuljanah rocket was developed as part of a government program to send civilian satellites into orbit, Iran Aerospace Organization spokesman Ahmad Hosseini said in a statement. Iran state-backed media outlet Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) broadcasted the rocket launch Monday, which it said reached a height of 500 kilometers.
Iran’s defense minister Amir Hatami said the launch demonstrated that Iran was capable of developing advanced rocketry like those of the world’s major powers, according to the IRNA.
— IRNA News Agency (@IrnaEnglish) February 1, 2021
The improved technology used in the rocket included a motor propelled by solid fuel rather than liquid fuel. Solid fuel engines are also a key component used to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles and the technology used in Monday’s launch could be carried over to the Iranian military’s missile program with relative ease, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Iran’s government said the Zuljanah rocket was only developed for civilian use but the motor used in the rocket was much larger than what is typically used in a satellite carrier, according to The Wall Street Journal. Iran notably came under fire in January for researching uranium-based solid fuel, an important component used to produce nuclear weapons.
The rocket launch could complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to renegotiate the nuclear deal with Iran. The original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015 included restrictions on solid fuel technology and specifically prohibited using uranium or plutonium, according to Reuters.
Intelligence analyst and missiles expert Fabian Hinz told The Wall Street Journal that Iran’s recent actions are likely meant to build leverage over the U.S. until nuclear deal negotiations begin. (RELATED: Israel Threatens Possible Strike On Iran If Biden Rejoins Nuclear Deal)
“This was a very, very clear message by the Iranians that they are advancing and that they can build longer-range stuff if they want to,” he said. “They want to show that, if you put pressure on our missiles, we can react.”
Iran has moved quickly to expand its weapons development over the past two years after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. Iran claims its multiple violations of the agreement would be reversed if President Joe Biden were to bring the U.S. back into compliance and lift economic sanctions.