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Iran's Failed Rocket Launch Spotted from Space (Photo)

One of Planet's SkySat Earth-observation satellites spotted the wreckage of a failed launch from Iran's Imam Khomeini Space Center on Aug. 29, 2019.
One of Planet's SkySat Earth-observation satellites spotted the wreckage of a failed launch from Iran's Imam Khomeini Space Center on Aug. 29, 2019.
(Image: © Planet Labs, Inc.)

An Iranian rocket apparently exploded on the pad today (Aug. 29), marking the third launch failure of 2019 for the nation.

The ill-fated attempt originated from Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran, NPR reported, citing satellite imagery captured by the San Francisco-based company Planet.

That imagery shows smoke rising into the sky from the freshly painted launch pad, NPR noted. The pad also seems to sport a large black smudge.

Related: Iran in Space: Rockets, Satellites & Monkeys (Photos)

"This looks like the space launch vehicle blew up on the launch pad," Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR. Schmerler analyzed the imagery, which was first shared exclusively with NPR. 

Iran also suffered launch failures in January and February. The January launch involved a Simorgh rocket, and the February one employed a different booster, the Safir. The type of rocket that attempted to lift off today is unclear, NPR reported.

Planet (previously known as Planet Labs) has about 140 operational Earth-observation satellites in orbit, whose imagery and other data products the company sells to a variety of customers. 

Most of these spacecraft are tiny cubesats called Doves, which are about the size of a loaf of bread and can capture photos with a resolution of 10 feet to 16.5 feet (3 to 5 meters). But the imagery of today's failed launch was taken by one of Planet's minifridge-size SkySat satellites, which can resolve features as small as 3 feet (0.9 m), a company representative told Space.com. 

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