A much anticipated Iranian satellite launch, long criticized by the US as an alleged violation of a UN Security Council resolution banning ballistic missiles with nuclear capabilities, appears to have failed.
Satellite images show the aftermath of an apparent explosion at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, southeast of Iran's capital, as the rocket and satellite were scheduled to launch, which would constitute the Islamic Republic's third failed launch this year.
The AP reports that "satellite images by Planet Labs Inc. showed a black plume of smoke rising above a launch pad there, with what appeared to be the charred remains of a rocket and its launch stand."
Professional satellite imaging analysts said the photos suggest either an explosion during ignition or possibly a very brief lift-off before crashing back down to the pad.
Iranian officials and state media made no immediate comment or acknowledgement in the wake of the explosion marking an apparent failed launch.
CNN cited a US official familiar with an intelligence assessment of the matter as saying the US believes the accident most likely occurred during fueling operations.
Iranian state media had previously described the satellite prepped for launch, the Nahid-1, as a telecommunication satellite which was to conduct a low orbit around the Earth for two-and-a-half months.
Given the US scrutiny and prior condemnations of Iran's satellite launch and space ambitions, the incident is likely to prove a deep embarrassment for Tehran officials and the fledgling program; however, most countries satellite programs were achieved by lengthy trial and error.
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