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Astronomy and Space Exploration Reporting

The failure of a satellite launch by Iran worries the United States

The failed launch of an Iranian Earth observation satellite further accentuates the already tense relations between the United States and Iran. US diplomacy criticizes the Islamic Republic of the Persian Gulf for developing ballistic missiles under the cover of space activities related to access to space.

The Iranian Payam satellite launched on Tuesday, which the United States had openly criticized for launching, failed to reach its orbit. Although its launch, by a Basir launcher, was successful, Payam failed to get into the planned orbit, about 600 kilometers from Earth. Information was confirmed by Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Minister of Telecommunications. To explain this failure, the Iranian minister mentions an insufficient satellite speed to reach the target orbital position. It can, therefore, be assumed that a technical problem occurred at the time of separation of the satellite with the last stage of the launcher or more likely a power loss of the engine of this stage.

Payam is presented by the Iranians as an Earth observation satellite, dedicated to environmental monitoring of Iran and agriculture. What Uncle Sam blames is Iran’s space activities for access to space that violate one of the UN resolutions. As Mike Pompeo, the head of US diplomacy, points out, “such actions [the launching] would once again demonstrate that Iran is defying UN Security Council Resolution 2231.” The launch comes after the trial of an Iranian ballistic missile conducted on 1st December 2018 and sentenced by the UN.

Technologies common to missiles and launchers

Americans are not entirely wrong. Indeed, it should be known that the technology of a launcher is very close to that of a ballistic missile. And a launcher can carry a satellite as well as a military charge. Thus, the first Soviet and American launchers were mostly reconverted missiles, some of which are still in use.

Resolution 2231 referred to by the United States is nothing more than the action plan put in place by the United Nations following the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program signed in July 2015 in Vienna. This agreement was signed by the P5 + 1 countries: Germany, China, United States, France, United Kingdom, Russia as well as the European Union and of course Iran. It aims to make it almost impossible for Iran to manufacture an atomic bomb, while ensuring Tehran’s right to develop a civilian nuclear industry.

However, on May 8, 2018, the United States withdrew from this agreement, in part because it sought to negotiate with Iran a treaty that would cover both the nuclear program and Tehran’s ballistic program. Americans believe Iran will continue to acquire the technology needed for a military nuclear program and, under the guise of a space launcher program, develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and reaching the United States.

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