Iran successfully launched an advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space on Thursday, the nation’s state news channel announced. Experts describe the “Simorgh” rocket, whose name translates to “phoenix” in Persian, as a copy of North Korea’s Unha rocket, which uses some of the same technology as a long-range ballistic missile. On Thursday, the Iranian state media said the “Simorgh,” which took off from the Imam Khomeini National Space Station in the northern city of Semnan, was capable of carrying a 550-pound satellite. The launch, if confirmed by outside sources, marks a significant advancement of Iran’s fledgling space program, which conducted its last successful satellite rocket launch in February 2015.
Thursday’s test launch appears to be a direct reaction to a new round of sanctions imposed last week by the U.S. that targets 18 individuals and entities in Iran. Of those sanctioned, two Iranian organizations were accused of being involved with the nation’s ballistic-missile program. “This administration will continue to aggressively target Iran’s malign activity, including their ongoing state support of terrorism, ballistic missile program, and human rights abuses,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press release.