TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has tested an engine for a solid-fuel satellite carrier rocket, the country's state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday.
The report quoted Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard’s aerospace unit, as saying the test was successful. He said it marked the first time Iran used a solid-fuel rocket rather than a liquid-fuel one. He said Iran will produce lighter rocket engines in further space projects.
According to the general, the satellite carrier was made of a composite material instead of metal — something he claimed was “cost-efficient.” Hajizadeh spoke to a group of clerics in the city of Qom, the seat of seminaries in Iran. He said Iran strongly pursues its goals in aerospace and satellite industry.
However, composites are in general more expensive to produce than their metal equivalents. Composites also make a rocket lighter so it can boost a heavier satellite or payload into orbit.
Iranian state TV did not show any footage on the launch. IRNA initially reported the rocket had been launched into space, but later removed the reference in its story without explanation. Also, footage that was later released showed the rocket engine going through a static ground test.
Satellite carriers usually use liquid fuel but solid-fuel rockets can be adapted for mobile launchers that can be driven anywhere on a major road or rail system. Pure solid-fuel rockets are mostly associated with ballistic missiles systems.
Last month, Iran said it launched a rocket with a satellite carrier bearing three devices into space, without saying whether any of the objects had entered Earth’s orbit.
The State Department at the time said it remains concerned by Iran’s space launches, which it asserts “pose a significant proliferation concern” in regards to Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
The launches come against the backdrop of negotiations in Vienna trying to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Iran, which has long said that it does not seek nuclear weapons, insists that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component.