“The Payam satellite was successfully launched this morning with the Basir satellite carrier. But the satellite, unfortunately, failed to be placed in orbit in the final stage,” Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told Iranian state television on Tuesday.
The rocket carrying the Payam satellite successfully passed its first and second stages, but then could not reach the “necessary speed” in the third one.
Iran had planned to send two satellites, Payam and Doosti, into the orbit. Payam means “message” in Farsi, while Doosti means “friendship”.
It’s unclear how the failure of the Payam will affect the launch timing for the Doosti. Jahromi wrote on Twitter that “Doosti is waiting for orbit,” without elaborating.
The US has called Iran’s satellite programmes a violation of UN Security Council resolution that endorsed a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the supposedly “innocent satellite” launched on Tuesday was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Tehran reined in most of its nuclear programme under the deal, since abandoned by the US in May last year, but has continued to develop its ballistic missile and rocket technology.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
The US and its allies allege the same satellite-launching technology could be used to develop long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran’s plans to send satellites into orbit demonstrate the country’s defiance of the resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
“The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Pompeo said on January 3.
Iran denies the accusation. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that pursuing Iran’s aerospace programme is not against international law.
“The satellite is part of a civil project with purely scientific aims, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told the semi-official ISNA news agency.
“Iran will wait for no country’s permission to conduct such scientific projects.”