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Sunday 15 September 2019

Satellite photos show burning Iran space centre launch pad

Iran was to conduct a satellite launch in the coming days.

Annotated satellite image showing a fire at a rocket launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan province (Planet Labs Inc, Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)
Annotated satellite image showing a fire at a rocket launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan province (Planet Labs Inc, Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

A rocket at an Iranian space centre that was to conduct a satellite launch apparently exploded on its launch pad, satellite images show.

State media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan province.

However, satellite images by Planet Labs Inc showed a black plume of smoke rising above a launch pad there, with what appeared to be the charred remains of a rocket and its launch stand.

In previous days, satellite images had shown officials there repainted the launch pad blue.

On Thursday morning, half of that paint apparently had been burned away.

“Whatever happened there, it blew up and you’re looking at the smouldering remains of what used to be there,” said David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Mr Schmerler told The Associated Press that the images of the space centre suggested that the rocket either exploded during ignition or possibly briefly lifted off before crashing back down on the pad.

NPR first reported on the satellite images of the apparent failed launch at the space centre, some 150 miles south-east of Iran’s capital, Tehran.

Iranian satellite launches had been anticipated before the end of the year.

In July, Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told The Associated Press that Tehran planned three more launches this year, two for satellites that do remote-sensing work and another that handles communications.

The Nahid-1 – meaning “Venus” – is reportedly the telecommunication satellite, which authorities plan to have in orbit for two-and-a-half months.

The apparent attempt to launch the Nahid-1 comes after two failed satellite launches of the Payam and Doosti in January and February.

Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.

The US alleges such launches defy a UN 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.

PA Media

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