A picture released by Iran's defence ministry shows a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket ready for launch from an undisclosed desert location.

Iranian rocket launch lifts heat on nuclear deal

Iran’s reinvigorated space program showed off a new rocket launch on Thursday, sending a message to Western powers negotiating with Tehran over the future of its nuclear program.

Iranian state television showed what it said was the successful launch of a Simorgh (which translates as Phoenix) rocket, carrying three satellites.

It took off from the Imam Khomeini Spaceport, where preparations for a launch had been observed by Western powers’ own satellites in mid-December.

The success appeared to be limited – the launch may have failed to reach sufficient speed to release the three satellites into orbit, but the rocket itself attained a height of 465km.

Western powers have been monitoring the Iranian space program closely, saying it is “dual use” – that as well as being intended as part of a genuine attempt to launch satellites, it is also ballistic missile technology.

The 2015 agreement with the UN and Western powers that restricted Iran’s nuclear program also proposed limits to its missile development program, but Tehran says that this part of the deal was not binding.

It has pushed ahead with a twin-track program of both missile and space technological advancement, one run by the ministry of defence, of which the official national space agency is part, and one run outside the chain of government command by the Revolutionary Guard.

Read the article by Richard Spencer in The Australian (from The Times).