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Iran satellite fails to reach orbit

January 15, 2019

Iran has said a satellite launched to gather environmental information has failed to reach orbit. Washington had expressed concern that Tehran's satellite program could help it in developing ballistic nuclear weapons.

A satellite rocket before its launch in a space station at an undisclosed location in Iran
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Iran announced on Tuesday that one of its satellites had failed to reach the "necessary speed" to achieve orbit.

Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Javad Jahromi told Iranian state television that the rocket carrying the satellite had passed the first and second launch stage, but that it had developed problems in the third phase.

"Payam satellite was successfully launched this morning with the Basir satellite carrier. But the satellite unfortunately failed to be placed in the orbit in the last phase," said Jahromi.

The country had plans to send two satellites, Payam, meaning "message," and Doosti, meaning "peace” into orbit.

State television said the two satellites would be used to gather information on the country's environment. 

Read more: Iran deal — The European Union's ugly options

Iran normally shows off its achievements in space in February, when the country marks the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit, and has launched a monkey into space.

However, the US and its allies have expressed concern that the space program may be being used as a foil for Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Breaking the rules?

Earlier in January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's plans to launch the satellites into orbit would violate a UN Security Council resolution made in 2015. Resolution 2231 demanded that Iran refrain from any activities using ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Read more: US reimposes sanctions on Iran: What does that mean?

Iran has denied that the satellite program is linked to any nuclear ambitions, claiming it is part of a civil project with purely scientific aims.

Tehran says it is sticking to the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal that limits the enrichment of uranium in exchange for nuclear sanctions.

US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal last May, although European signatories to the treaty maintain that it is an important component of international security. However, Britain, France and Germany joined the US in criticizing Iran's launch of the Simorgh space rocket in August last year.

rc/rg (AFP, AP)

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