Iran apparently has now struck out in its attempts to launch a satellite this year.
Images taken from space Thursday appear to show that a rocket exploded at an Iranian space center that was gearing up for a satellite launch, suggesting the Islamic Republic suffered its third failed launch this year alone.
"Whatever happened there, it blew up and you're looking at the smoldering remains of what used to be there," David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said after analyzing the images.
The scene Thursday after an apparent failed launch at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran. (Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
State media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, some 150 miles southeast of Iran's capital, Tehran.
Aerial images of the space center provided to Fox News by Maxar’s WorldView-2 satellite show gray and black plumes of smoke emanating from its launch pad.
In previous days, satellite images had shown officials there repainted the launch pad blue. On Thursday morning, half of that paint apparently had been burned away.
Schmerler said that the images suggest the rocket either exploded during ignition or possibly briefly lifted off before crashing back down on the pad. Water runoff from the pad, likely from trying to extinguish the blaze, could be seen along with a host of vehicles parked nearby.
Iranian satellite launches had been anticipated before the end of the year.
A closer view of the launch pad following the launch that apparently failed. (Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
In July, Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said that Tehran planned three more launches, two for satellites that do remote-sensing work and another that handles communications.
The Nahid-1 is reportedly the telecommunication satellite, which authorities plan to have in orbit for two-and-a-half months. Nahid in Farsi means "Venus." The satellite, which had Iran's first foldable solar panels, was supposed to be in a low orbit around the Earth for some two-and-a-half months.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Jahromi on Aug. 13 as saying that the Nahid-1 was ready to be delivered to Iran's Defense Ministry, signaling a launch date for the satellite likely loomed. Iran's National Week of Government, during which Tehran often inaugurates new projects, began Aug. 24.
Earlier on Thursday, Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami told the state-run IRNA news agency that the country's satellite activities were "being done in a transparent way," responding to AP and other foreign media reporting on activity at the space center.
"Whenever activity and research bear successful results, we will announce the good news," Hatami said. Iran at times in the past hasn't acknowledged failed launches.
The apparent attempt to launch the Nahid-1 comes after two failed satellite launches of the Payam and Doosti in January and February. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in February killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
The U.S. alleges such launches defy a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.