Iran revealed Monday that a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Space Center, which is located southwest of the northern city of Semnan, had exploded a head of the launch of a new satellite into space.
Government Spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said the explosion was caused by a technical problem at the launch pad. There was no rocket, he said, on the pad at the time of the explosion. He noted that the blast had not caused any human casualties.
This is the first Iranian confirmation of the failure of Iran’s yet new bid to launch a satellite into space, following international media reports about the incident. Images taken from space, following the blast on August 29, showed a rocket explosion at an Iranian space center gearing up for a satellite launch.
This was Iran’s third failed launch this year alone. Iranian media and government officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident. There was speculation, meanwhile, on whether the satellite launch failure was caused by some sort of intervention by the United States. The possibility of an intervention by the US surfaced after US President Donald Trump denied on Twitter his country’s involvement in the matter.
“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” Mr Trump wrote on August 30. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
The US had previously warned Iran against missile launch activities. It is afraid that long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can be used in launching nuclear warheads. The US and Iran have been locked in a tough showdown over Iran’s nuclear activities and its destabilizing role in the Middle East region. In May last year, Mr Trump pulled his country out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, lobbying for a different deal with the Islamic Republic.
Soon after the pullout from the nuclear deal, Mr Trump’s administration stepped up its economic sanctions on Iran, depriving it of selling its oil in international markets.
As a move, this is undermining the Iranian economy and giving Iran’s mullahs a hard time. It is also opening the door for social strife, with Iranian citizens more strongly feeling the heat from the US economic sanctions on their country. Iranian officials accused the US of intervention to sabotage their satellite launches in the past. The According to media reports, the US a secret program for disrupting Iran’s satellite and missile project. Some US official were quoted by US media as saying that when he came to office, Mr Trump accelerated the program.
In January this year, Iran planned to launch its Payam satellite. Nevertheless, the launch malfunctioned. This came after Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi revealed that his country would launch three satellites into orbit by March.
In mid-August, Jahromi said Iran would launch a locally built telecommunications satellite called Nahid 1 (Venus 1). This satellite had Iran’s first foldable solar panels. It was supposed to be in a low orbit around the Earth for some two-and-a-half months. The Islamic Republic launched its first satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009 and its Rasad (Observation) satellite was also sent into orbit in June 2011.
Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third locally-made satellite, Navid (Promise), into orbit. Iran will certainly make another attempt to launch the satellite into space. But whether this launch will be a success, when it is done, remains to be seen in the coming days.