Iran’s paramilitary force Islamic Revolution Guards Corps on Wednesday launched its first military satellite into space, revealing a secret military space programme, attracting immediate criticism from the United States, AP reported. The Guard said it put the satellite, named “Noor”, into a low orbit circling the Earth using a mobile launcher at a new launch site.

The Guard said the three-stage satellite took off from Iran’s Central Desert. The paramilitary force said it used a “Qased”, or Messenger, satellite carrier to put the device into space. The force said the system used both liquid and solid fuel.

“The successful launch of the satellite promoted new dimensions of the defense power of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said the guard’s commander Hossein Salami, according to the Tehran Times. He called it a “strategic achievement” for the country. Salami said the country now has advanced space technology.

“Today access and using space is not a choice but an unavoidable necessity and we must also find our place in the space,” IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said. “Only superpowers have this capability and others are just consumers of this technology.”

The launch of the satellite evoked strong criticism from the United States. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the American government will hold Iran “accountable” over the satellite launch.

“The Iranians have consistently said that these missile programs were disconnected from the military, that these were purely commercial enterprises,” Pompeo said. “I think today’s launch proves what we’ve been saying all along here in the United States.”

Pompeo added that every country should “go to the United Nations” and find out whether the launch was in keeping with a Security Council resolution that called on Iran not to pursue any activities to develop ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.

Iran had refused to abide by the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with several countries, after the Donald Trump-led United States pulled out of it in 2018. The deal, signed during the Barack Obama administration, forbade Iran from developing such missiles.

Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump said he had told the American Navy to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”. Trump’s order came a week after 11 small armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps speedboats swarmed around US Navy and Coast Guard ships in international waters in the northern Gulf.