DESPARDES — An Iranian rocket failed to put a satellite into orbit on Sunday, state television reported, the latest setback for a program the United States claims helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile program.
The launch happened at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s Semnan province, some 230 kilometers southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran. A Simorgh, or “Phoenix”, rocket couldn’t put the Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit, however, due to a low speed, Iranian state TV reported.
“Stage-1 and stage-2 motors of the carrier functioned properly and the satellite was successfully detached from its carrier, but at the end of its path it did not reach the required speed for being put in the orbit,” Defense Ministry space program spokesman Ahmad Hosseini told state TV.
The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.
The launch had been planned amid celebrations ahead of the February anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Sunday’s failure came after two failed launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites last year, as well as a launchpad rocket explosion in August. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in February 2019 also killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
The rocket explosion in August drew even the attention of US President Donald Trump, who later tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure. The three failures in a row raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran’s program.
The US alleges such satellite launches defy a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says it hasn’t violated the UN resolution as it only “called upon” Tehran not to conduct such tests.
The launch comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. Iran since has begun breaking terms of the deal limiting its enrichment of uranium.