JEDDAH: An attempt by Iran to put a communications and imaging satellite into orbit on Tuesday turned into an embarrassing flop when the rocket carrying it could not travel quickly enough.
The launch sent “a message of the pride, self-confidence and will power of Iranian youth to the world,” Iranian TV reported in a live broadcast. Minutes later, the rocket failed and the Payam satellite plunged into the Indian Ocean.
The first and second stages of the Simorgh rocket fired successfully but the third stage “did not reach adequate speed,” Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi admitted. “I would have liked to make everybody happy with good news, but sometimes life doesn’t go forward the way we anticipate.”
The satellite was equipped with four cameras and was intended to orbit at an altitude of 500km gathering information on environmental change in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said before the launch.
“The satellite will give us all the information we need, and we will prove to the world that we are a country of science,” he said.
However, the US had warned Tehran against the launch because the rocket used long-range missile technology, in violation of the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
Washington is concerned that the technology can also be used to launch warheads. “The US will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this month.
Both the satellite and its carrier rocket were designed and produced at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. Their failure is the latest in a series of embarrassments, as Iran’s military and civilian infrastructure continues to suffer from years of international isolation and the reintroduction of US sanctions this year.
A report by defense industry specialists Jane’s said: “Iranian weapons often fall short, literally and metaphorically.”
It was important to note overlaps between Iran’s satellite and ballistic missile programs, Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News.
“Launching objects into the atmosphere or into space takes a particular expertise and technology capability,” he said. “Iran has managed to do both, but through cheating, either in terms of illicit transfers of technology or keeping key scientists under wraps.
“Nevertheless, the bottom line is that what Iran produces is still shoddy, and subject to what is available in the sanctions marketplace.”