For the third time in two years, Iran failed in an attempt to launch a satellite into space, western intelligence sources said Tuesday.
Iran was attempting to launch a home-produced satellite with photographic capabilities, but the rocket carrying it failed to perform as expected, and all contact with both the rocket and the satellite were lost after launch, according to the sources, quoted by Israel’s Channel 2.
Iran attempted the launch in secret about 10 days ago, and has been trying to cover up the failure, but the launch was registered by the western intelligence agencies, the report said.
News of the failed launch came on the day that Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers resumed negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, and the day after Israel successfully tested a new long-range missile interceptor in a joint drill with the US.
It also coincided with the first rocket fire into Israel from Gaza in three months — an upgraded Fajr-5 rocket which slammed into Ashkelon on Tuesday morning, causing no casualties. Some reports claimed Tuesday that Iranian experts are in Gaza helping Hamas and other Islamist terror groups improve their rocket and missile technology for use against Israel.
Monday’s trial of the Arrow 3 was described as a further improvement in Israel’s capacity to fend off an Iranian threat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the Israeli technical skill, and the partnership with the US, involved in the system, which he said enabled the Israeli government to better protect its citizens.
Uzi Rubin, who oversaw the development of the entire Arrow system, said the Arrow 3 represented “the most sophisticated system of its kind” in the world.
The primary advantage of the Arrow 3 over its predecessor, the Arrow 2, is its ability to intercept enemy missiles at higher altitudes and to target non-conventional weapons of mass destruction. This is seen as particularly relevant amid concerns over the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the test was an “important milestone in Israel’s multi-layered protection system.”
The Defense Ministry said the Arrow 3 “flew an exo-atmospheric trajectory through space, in accordance with the test plan.”
The rocket, still in early stages of development, was not given a target to intercept.
Arrow 3 joins Arrow 2, Iron Dome and Magic Wand (also known as David’s Sling) in Israel’s “umbrella” defense against rocket threats. The Arrow 3 is expected to be deployed in 2016.
The interceptor system is being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries in conjunction with Boeing.
Israel has seen success with anti-missile systems over the past year, especially the Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor, which was deployed against Gazan rockets during Operation Pillar of Defense.
The system proved effective during the November mini-war, intercepting 84 percent of the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at residential areas in Israel’s south and center.