“Lift high your eyes and see: Who created these? He who sends out their host by count, Who calls them each by name: Because of His great might and vast power, Not one fails to appear.” Isaiah 40:26 (The Israel Bible™)
A Zafar 1 communications satellite launched by Iran’s space agency atop a Simorgh rocket on Sunday from Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran failed to reach orbit, falling back to earth in a spectacular crash.
“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,” Iran’s Defense Ministry space program spokesman Ahmad Hosseini told Iranian state television, according to AP.
The remains of the rocket crashed in a sparsely populated area in southeast Iran, spreading debris over a wide area. Local residents reported eight massive explosions and saw a “huge bright light in the sky”, according to Radio Farda.
📸 برخی منابع خبری محلی با انتشار تصاویری مدعی شدند که قطعات ماهواره ظفر در اطراف زاهدان پیدا شده است pic.twitter.com/FvE7HsJmAI
— سید حامد موسوی . (@es9MEqgVOXIXf0m) February 10, 2020
Zafar (Victory) is an imaging satellite developed for dual-purpose communication and remote sensing mission.
This is the third failure in a row of the Simorgh, an Iranian produced orbital carrier rocket, and all four of their launches attempted since 2017 have resulted in failure. A Simorgh launch failed in January 2019 and another one with a different rocket, the Safir, a month later. Launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites failed last year. In August, a rocket apparently exploded on the pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center. A fire at the space center in February 2019 killed three researchers.
According to NASA, no Iranian satellite has reached orbit since Fajr which was launched in February 2015. Iran has succeeded in launching several communications satellites into temporary orbits, first succeeding in 2009, following that up with successful launches in 2011, 2012 and 2015, all using Safir rockets. The larger Simorgh has yet to be successful in launching a payload into orbit.
In 2013, they launched a monkey into space.
Despite these failures, the Iranians remained optimistic, noting that even their failures are greater than those of the U.S. space program, as evidenced in this Twitter post by Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.
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
Late on Sunday Azari-Jahromi incorrectly claimed the satellite had landed in the Indian Ocean and promised to put another version of Zafar into orbit in June.
The spokesperson for the space sector of the Iranian Defense Ministry, Ahmad Hosseini, also declared the crashed rocket to be a success.
“As announced before, it was a research launch, and our expectations were satisfied in the respective sectors,” said Hosseini. “We consider the launch as a successful one, because the research launch is not aimed at the injection phase.”
The launch was intended as a public relations gesture, coming just before the ten-day celebration of the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The U.S. government maintains that Iran’s space program is a cover for developing technology to be used in its intercontinental ballistic missile program. This violates a UN resolution restricting it from developing ICBMs.
The French government condemned the launch on Sunday, even though it was unsuccessful.
“France condemns this launch which calls on technologies used for ballistic missiles and, in particular, intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.