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Iranian official says rocket explodes on launchpad — third failure this year

The Imam Khomeini Space Center. (Tasnim News Agency/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

An Iranian official has said that a rocket exploded on its launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center ahead of a planned launch, the apparent third failed launch this year by Tehran.

An Iranian official quoted by Reuters said the incident was caused by “some technical issues and it exploded but our young scientists are working to fix the problem.”

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave no further details.

Reuters also quoted an unnamed U.S. official as also saying that Iran suffered a satellite launch failure, and satellite images by the commercial company Planet Labs showed a black plume of smoke rising above a launchpad at the space center in Iran’s Semnan Province.

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On August 24, U.S. National Public Radio, citing satellite imagery it received from Planet Labs, reported that it appeared as if Iran was preparing to launch a space rocket.

The United States has accused Tehran of using the technology to launch satellites into orbit as part of its effort to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the accusation.

“Such vehicles incorporate technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told the AP news agency that “whatever happened there, it blew up and you’re looking at the smoldering remains of what used to be there.”

If confirmed, it would mark Iran’s third failed launch this year following incidents in January and February.

Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009, followed by its Rasad (Observation) satellite in June 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically made satellite, Navid (Promise), into orbit.