Iran launches new rocket on suborbital test flight: report

Iran recently test-launched a new rocket, according to the country's state television on Monday (Feb. 8).

During the broadcast, Ahmad Hosseini, a spokesperson for the Iranian Defense Ministry's space division, said that the test was "the first launch of the Zoljanah hybrid satellite carrier [rocket] for suborbital testing," according to the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Iran is an autocratic regime that generally releases little information about its space activities.

Related: Iran in space: rockets, satellites & monkeys (photos)

Iranian government footage shows the country's new Zoljanah's first suborbital test launch. (Image credit: Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran)

Zoljanah is a three-stage rocket with two solid propulsion stages and one liquid one, and can be launched from a mobile platform, which provides "special capabilities," Hosseini said, according to the report. He said that the rocket can send a satellite of up to 1,100 lbs. (220 kilograms) to a 310-mile (500-kilometer) orbit. For comparison, the International Space Station orbits at an altitude of roughly at 250 miles (400 km).

State television showed the rocket "being launched in a desert area," according to the AFP, but did not disclose the location or time of the test. The launch was reportedly done in Semnan province, which is where the government's space center is located, the report added.

The test was performed almost one year after Iran reportedly sent its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, aboard a two-stage Qassad rocket that lifted off from the Markazi Desert in Central Iran. U.S. tracking data available at that time confirmed that the spacecraft safely reached orbit.

Iran had made another attempt to send a satellite aloft in February 2020, but the Zafar 1 spacecraft didn't pick up enough speed to make it safely into Earth orbit, according to reports at that time. Satellite imagery has provided evidence of other past Iranian rocket launches that didn't make it.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: