In a statement, the department sanctioned the Iran Space Agency and two affiliates for “engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities."
“For the 1st time, the U.S. has sanctioned Iran’s civilian space agency, which develops the same space launch vehicle technology used in ballistic missiles,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. “We call on our allies to join us in deterring the world’s top sponsor of terrorism from growing its ballistic missile program.”
"The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs," the department's statement said. " … These designations should serve as a warning to the international scientific community that collaborating with Iran’s space program could contribute to Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon delivery system."
The announcement came five days after a rocket exploded at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in the northern province of Semnan. An Iranian official said the explosion resulted from a technical malfunction during a test. U.S. officials have said a surveillance image of the explosion's aftermath gave evidence that the Iranian space program is used to develop missiles, including ones capable of carrying nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction over long distances.
A United Nations Security Council resolution bans Iran from activity related to the development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran insists it is developing rockets to launch satellites into space, which it has done twice since 2013. The explosion marked the third failure involving a rocket at the Iranian center, which has raised suspicions of sabotage in Iran's space program.
The sanctions are the latest action in the Trump administration's escalating campaign of economic and diplomatic measures since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement last year.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department sanctioned a tanker filled with Iranian oil after Fox News revealed it was violating American sanctions.
President Trump said the sanctions against Iran have been working, hurting the theocratic nation's economy.
Fox News’ Trey Yingst, Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.