A fire in Iran’s space research center has killed three scientists, the country’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported Sunday.
The report quoted Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi as saying that three researchers died “because of a fire in one of the buildings of the Space Research Center.”
Jahromi did not elaborate in the report.
Iran plans to launch a satellite into orbit despite US and Israeli criticism that such launches benefit its ballistic missile program, since the rockets used in the two programs depend on very similar technology.
In January, the country launched a satellite, but authorities said it failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch due to a technical malfunction.
Iran had said that it planned to send two non-military satellites, Payam and Doosti, into orbit. The Payam, which means “message” in Farsi, was an imagery satellite that Iranian officials said would help with farming and other activities.
Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami vowed last week to carry out another satellite launch “soon” and promised “good news” would be announced in the near future about the country’s defense industry.
Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says it is not violating a United Nations resolution that only “called upon” it not to conduct such tests.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 claimed to have launched a monkey into space.