An Iranian rocket failed to put a satellite into orbit on Sunday, state television reported, the latest setback for a program the U.S. claims helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile program.
The launch happened at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s Semnan province, some 230 kilometers (145 miles) southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran. A Simorgh, or “Phoenix,” rocket couldn't put the Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit, however, due to a low speed, Iranian state TV reported.
“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 told state TV.
Hosseini still sought to portray the failure as a “remarkable” achievement for its space program. Previous Simorgh launches of the 80-ton satellite carrier suffered other failures.
In the days leading up to the launch, Iranian officials had been promoting the mission, including the country's Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi. His quick rise through the Islamic Republic’s carefully managed political system already is generating speculation he could be a candidate for Iran’s 2021 presidential campaign.
Jahromi acknowledged the unsuccessful launch in a tweet shortly after the news broke on state TV, comparing it to a “few samples of US launch failures.”
Today "Zafar" satellite launch failed. Like many scientific projects, Failure happened. FALCON 9, Juno II, ATLAS, PROTON M, ANTARES are just few samples of US launch failures.
But We're UNSTOPPABLE! We have more Upcoming Great Iranian Satellites! 🛰
— MJ Azari Jahromi (@azarijahromi) February 9, 2020
“But We're UNSTOPPABLE! We have more Upcoming Great Iranian Satellites!” Jahromi tweeted in English, including a satellite emoji. He later tweeted in Farsi that “sometimes life does not go the way we like it to go.”