WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 (CGTN) -- The U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran's civilian space agency and two research organizations on Tuesday, claiming they were being used to advance Tehran's ballistic missile program.
The U.S. Treasury sanctions targeted the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute, according to a statement on its website.
The new sanctions, part of Washington's years-long pressure campaign to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, were the first of its kind as tension in the Middle East escalates.
"The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
He said Iran's August 29 attempt to test a space launch vehicle underscored "the urgency of the threat."
An Iranian rocket exploded on its launch pad at Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran before its scheduled launch last Thursday. The explosion followed Iran's failed attempt to launch a satellite in January.
The Iran Space Agency develops satellites and launch vehicle technology, and works with the Iran Space Research Center on day-to-day tasks as well as research and development, according to the State Department. The two have also worked with a sanctioned liquid propellant ballistic missile organization, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, the State Department said.
The Astronautics Research Institute has managed the space vehicle launch project, according to the department.
Tehran denies its space activity is a cover for developing weapon launches.