Iran went ahead with a rocket launch to put a satellite in orbit on January 15 in defiance of US calls to desist, but the rocket failed to reach the required velocity, Iranian officials said.
Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told state TV that the rocket carrying the Payam (Message) satellite did not gain the "necessary speed" in the third stage of the launch.
At issue is whether Iran could conceivably transfer knowhow gained from its satellite rocket tests to a programme designed to produce a rocket that could carry a nuclear payload. Tehran says it has no intention of developing such a nuclear rocket and that the satellite rocket project is not in violation of UN resolutions, but Washington disagrees.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, blasted Iran over the launch of Payam. He alleged that the "innocent satellite" was in fact "the first stage of an intercontinental missile" Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Iran's work on rockets is in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that calls on the Iranians to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran is insistent that the satellite launches do not breach the resolution. Unlike the US, it remains part of the Iran nuclear deal agreed with six major powers. The Trump administration walked out of the accord in May last year, but all the other signatories remain committed to its demands and provisions. Under the agreement, Iran is not permitted to work on developing nuclear bombs or nuclear-capable missiles. The UN nuclear watchdog says Iran remains in full compliance with the nuclear deal.
After the failed Payam satellite mission, Azari Jahromi vowed that Iranian scientists would continue their research into rockets designed to send satellites into orbit. A twin Iranian satellite named Doosti (Friendship) was ready for a launch, the minister tweeted.
"We should not come up short or stop," he wrote. "It's exactly in these circumstances that we Iranians are different than other people in spirit and bravery."
Azari Jahromi was seen by many Iranians as having made a big gaffe in relation to Payam given that before the launch—which was not publicised in advance—he tweeted that he had a “big surprise” coming. One impertinent Twitter interlocutor replied: “A revolution?”
Payam and Doosti were both intended to gather information on environmental change in Iran, according to officials. Parts of Iran have suffered punishing droughts in recent years.
The wreckage of Payam plunged into the Indian Ocean, according to Iranian officials.