An Iranian rocket failed to put a satellite into orbit on 9th February, state television reported, the latest setback for a program the U.S. claims helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile program.
The launch happened at 7:15 p.m. local time at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s Semnan province, some 230 kilometers southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran. A Simorgh, or “Phoenix,” rocket could not put the Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit, due to a low speed.
“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.
Satellite images by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies obtained by The Associated Press showed the launch tower for the rocket bore massive images of the revolution’s leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and the current Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran had spent just under 2 million euros to build the Zafar 1. Officials planned for the satellite, whose name means “victory” in Farsi, to remain in orbit for 18 months before crashing back through the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrating.
The 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 U.S. 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, something Trump himself hinted at by tweeting that the U.S. “was not involved in the catastrophic accident.”