'Zafar' satellite did not reach orbit as planned: Iranian defence ministry

Reuters Dubai Feb 09, 2020, 10.29 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The launch was the latest in a programme which the United States says helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile technology.

Iran launched a domestically made satellite on Sunday but it failed to reach orbit, a defence ministry official said.

"It was launched with success and ... we have reached most our aims ... but the "Zafar" satellite did not reach orbit as planned," the official told state television.

The launch was the latest in a programme which the United States says helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile technology. Tehran denies that its aerospace programme is a cover for missile development.

On Sunday, Iran said it will launch a satellite as part of a fledgling programme the United States says is a cover for ballistic missile development.

"The Zafar satellite will be placed in orbit today from Semnan at a speed of 7,400 kilometers," Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi had said, according to the official IRIB news agency.

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Iran carried out at least two failed satellite launches last year.

The United States says it is concerned that long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran denies that satellite activity is a cover for missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump's administration reimposed sanctions on Iran following Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from an international accord designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Trump said the nuclear deal did not go far enough and did not include restrictions on Tehran’s missile program.

Tensions, already high over the nuclear issue, reached the highest level in decades between Iran and the United States after Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Iran retaliated with a missile attack against a U.S. base in Iraq.

Once the satellite is in orbit, the first picture that it will transmit will be of Soleimani, minister Azari-Jahromi hoped on Sunday.

Iran launched its first satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009 and the Rasad (Observation) satellite was sent into orbit in June 2011. Tehran said in 2012 that it had successfully put its third domestically-made satellite Navid (Promise) into orbit.