Iran Satellite Launch, Which United States Warned Against, Fails

January 15, 2019 Updated: January 15, 2019

GENEVA—Iran’s bid to put a satellite into orbit, in defiance of warnings from the United States, failed on Jan. 15 after the rocket carrying it did not reach escape velocity, as the country’s telecoms minister said a second launch would go ahead.

Authorities in Washington this month warned Tehran against undertaking three planned launches that they said would, by using long-range ballistic missile technology, violate the U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The United States is concerned that that technology can also be used to launch warheads.

Iran, which considers its space program a matter of national pride, has said its space vehicle launches and missile tests are not violations and will continue.

Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said Tuesday’s satellite, named Payam, was mounted with four cameras. It was intended to be used for imaging and communications purposes and orbit at an altitude of 310 miles, according to a report on the ministry’s website.

He said the satellite failed at the third stage because the rocket “did not reach adequate speed.”

“I would have liked to make everybody happy with good news but sometimes life doesn’t go forward the way we anticipate,” he said on Twitter.

The Payam satellite is seen in the sky after it was launched in Iran
The Payam satellite is seen in the sky after it was launched in Iran on Jan. 15, 2019. (Reuters TV/via Reuters)

Another satellite, named Doosti, was waiting to be launched.

“We should not come up short or stop,” Azari-Jahromi wrote. “It’s exactly in these circumstances that we Iranians are different than other people in spirit and bravery.”

Under the nuclear deal—which Washington pulled out of last spring before reimposing sanctions—the country is “called upon” to refrain from work for up to eight years on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

President Hassan Rouhani said Washington was waging an economic war against Tehran in order to get concessions on the missile program, but “is not able to build a wall around Iran.”

The country launched its first domestically built satellite, the OMID (Hope) research and telecoms satellite, in 2009 on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The 40th anniversary falls in February.