TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian satellite-carrying rocket blasted off into space on Tuesday, but scientists failed to put the device into orbit in a launch previously criticized by the United States as helping the Islamic Republic further develop its ballistic missile program.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged that Iran’s space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon to the mainland US — criticism that comes amid the Trump administration’s maximalist approach against Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains that 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.
The rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. That suggests something went wrong after the rocket pushed the satellite out of the Earth’s atmosphere. He did not elaborate on what caused the failure but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.
Iran had said that it plans to send two nonmilitary 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.