DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran appears to have attempted a second satellite launch despite US criticism that its space program helps it develop ballistic missiles, satellite images released Thursday suggest. Iran has not acknowledged conducting such a launch.
Images released by the Colorado-based company DigitalGlobe show a rocket at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province on Tuesday. Images from Wednesday show the rocket was gone with what appears to be burn marks on its launch pad.
Iranian state media did not immediately report on the rocket launch, though such delays have happened in previous launches.
Iran has said it would launch its Doosti, or “Friendship,” satellite. A launch in January failed to put another satellite, Payam or “Message,” into orbit.
DigitalGlobe analysts said the images from Tuesday suggest Iran used a Safir, or “ambassador,” rocket in the launch. In the January launch, engineers used a Simorgh, or “phoenix,” rocket. It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the rocket choice.
The Doosti, a remote-sensing satellite developed by engineers at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology, was to be launched into a low orbit.
The US alleges such launches defy a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged the first Iranian launch was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says they don’t violate 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 launched a monkey into space.
Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the US under the administration of President Donald Trump.
On Sunday, state media reported that Iran has equipped its most advanced, longest-range missiles, which can hit Israel and US bases in the Gulf, with new precision guided warheads.
According to the unsourced report in the Fars news agency, the new home-made guided warheads have now been attached to the Khoramshahr, a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles.)
“The new generation of missiles with guided warheads has been named Khoramshahr 2 and they can be controlled until hitting the target and are able to carry warheads weighing nearly 2 tons,” the report said.
The first generation of Khoramshahr was unveiled in 2017. Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry conventional warheads only and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometers, although commanders say they have the technology to go further.
That makes them only medium-range but still sufficient to reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report