It wasn't clear when the launch took place or what the carrier carried. Iran broadcast footage of the explosion against the background of Vienna negotiations to repair Tehran's broken nuclear agreement with the world powers. A eighth round was underway this week, and will resume after the New Year's holiday.
The United States has rebuffed previous launches. Requests for comment from the U.S. military regarding Thursday's announcement by Iran were not answered. However, the State Department stated that it is still concerned about Iran's space launches. It asserts that they "pose significant proliferation concerns" with respect to Tehran's missile program.
Ahmad Hosseini (a Defense Ministry spokesperson) identified the rocket as a Simorgh or "Phoenix" rocket that launched the three devices over 470 km (290 miles).
Hosseini said, "The performance was good for the satellite carrier and the space center."
Hosseini, along with other officials, remained silent hours later on the status of the objects. This suggested that the rocket had not placed its payload in the correct orbit. Hosseini suggested a speed for satellite carrier, which state-associated journalists covering the event said wouldn't be sufficient to reach orbit.
In recent years, Iran's civil space program has experienced a number of setbacks including fatal fires as well as a launchpad rocket blast that attracted the attention of Donald Trump.
Recent announcements by the Iranian state media included a list listing planned satellite launches to support the Islamic Republic's civil space program. The Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has its own parallel program, which successfully launched a satellite into orbit last yea. Hosseini called Thursday's launch "initial," suggesting that more launches are in the pipeline.
Television broadcast footage of the white rocket, with its slogan "We can" and "Simorgh satellite carrier" launching into the morning sky at Iran's Imam Khomeini Spaceport. The launch was praised by a state TV reporter from a desert location.
The State Department stated late Thursday that space launch vehicles use technologies that are almost identical to and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles. The United States will continue to use all of its nonproliferation tools in order to stop Iran's further development of missile programs. It also urges other countries that they take action to curb Iran's missile-development activities.
Iran, which has long maintained its non-interest in nuclear weapons, insists that satellite launches and rocket testing do not contain a military component.
An announcement of a rocket launch in the midst diplomats trying to restore Tehran's nuclear accord is consistent with Tehran's hardline position under President Ebrahim Rashi, a conservative cleric who was recently elected.
As Tehran pushes forward with its nuclear advancements, new Iranian demands have exacerbated tensions in the region and exasperated Western countries. Diplomats repeatedly warned that it is too late to save the agreement, which was dissolved three years ago by Trump's unilateral withdrawal.
Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran's nuclear negotiator, spoke from Vienna to Iranian state TV. He said that he hoped diplomats would do "more serious work" to lift sanctions when talks resume next week. He called the last week's negotiations "positive."
Washington has however reacted negatively to Tehran's positive assessments. Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters this week that it was too early to know if Iran will return with a more constructive approach in this round.
Iran has now abandoned all restrictions under the agreement and has increased uranium enrichment to below 4% purity to 60%. This is a technical step away from weapons-grade levels. Monitoring Tehran's progress is difficult for international inspectors.
The Associated Press saw satellite images that suggested a launch was imminent earlier in the month. These images show preparations at Iran's rural Semnan, which is 240 km (150 miles) southwest of Tehran.
Iran has launched several satellites into orbit over the past decade. In 2013, Iran also sent a monkey into space. The government seems to have shifted its focus towards space under Raisi. The first meeting of the Supreme Council of Space of Iran has been held in over 11 years.