Iran's attempt to jump start and advance its space program has suffered yet another hit, after on Sunday state television confirmed the latest attempt of an Iranian rocket to put a satellite into orbit has failed.
The launch operation at Imam Khomeini Spaceport, about 145 miles southeast Tehran, initially succeeded but then ultimately failed due to the Simorgh or “Phoenix” rocket's low speed, resulting in the Zafar 1 communications satellite not reaching orbit, according to the AP.
“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 said on state TV.
Sunday's failure now makes four recent space launch operations in a row ending in failure, after the attempted launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites failed last year, as well as a launchpad explosion in August.
This has raised suspicions and accusations by Iran's leaders that Israel or the United States could be behind sabotaging the program.
Last September, Washington imposed sanctions on Iran's space agency, its space research center, as well as astronautics research institute — given all of these are seen as assisting development of technology related to Iran's ballistic missiles capability.
The Trump administration has consistently charged that Iran's space program is geared toward advancing its banned ICBMs.
#Iran plans to fire off Space Launch Vehicles with virtually same technology as ICBMs. The launch will advance its missile program. US, France, UK & Germany have already stated this is in defiance of UNSCR 2231. We won't stand by while the regime threatens international security.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2019
Over the past decade Iran has successfully put several short-lived satellites into orbit, but has been unable to advance beyond this.
Despite yet another embarrassing setback for the program, Iran's Defense Ministry still praised Sunday's launch as “remarkable” given the progress up to the point of failing to get the satellite into orbit.