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Iran acknowledges blast at Space Center

Aerial view of launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport, Iran, after rocket explosion of August 29, 2019. (President Donald Trump/Twitter)
September 04, 2019

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

Iran has confirmed an explosion at one of its launch pads after satellite photos showed the blast last week, saying it was due to a technical malfunction.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on September 2 that the explosion at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in the north of the country occurred during the “test stage” and ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

“No satellite had yet been transferred to the launch pad,” Rabiei told reporters, adding that the incident did not result in any fatalities.

The August 29 explosion is believed to be the third failure involving an Iranian rocket this year.

The United States had nothing to do with “the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir” rocket, President Donald Trump wrote in an August 30 tweet that was accompanied by a satellite image that appeared to show a destroyed missile and significant damage to a launch site.

Rabiei criticized Trump for “gleefully” tweeting about it.

“Fortunately, our knowledge in this field is increasing by the day,” the spokesman said, referring to Iran’s space program.

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 rocket into space.

Washington accuses Tehran of using the technology to launch satellites into orbit as part of its effort to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran denies the accusation.

The country has sent several satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 claimed to have launched a monkey into space.

The latest incident came amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington after Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers in May last year.