Iran International has learned that Iran’s satellite carrier rocket Zoljanah exploded after launch despite Tehran’s claim of its recent successful test-launch.
According to information obtained from western sources by Iran International, the hybrid-propellant satellite launcher that was tested for the second time on June 26 did not even manage to cover half of its intended path to orbit.
The suborbital Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) is currently at the experimental stage and was not carrying any satellite during the test-launch, the source said, adding that the Islamic Republic is yet trying to have a truly successful launch before it would mount a satellite on it. Iran claims that Zoljanah can carry satellites weighing up to 220 kilograms into an orbit 500 kilometers above the Earth.
Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini had claimed that "the third stage of the development of this satellite carrier has started thanks to data -- or telemetry – collected from this launch."
The three-stage Zoljanah (Zuljanah) satellite launch vehicle, which has two solid propulsion phases and a single liquid propulsion phase, was test-fired at a desert launch pad at Imam Khomeini Space Center southeast of Semnan, the site of frequent recent failed attempts. It is Iran’s third SLV after the Safir and Simorgh, the latter of which has failed five times in a row. A fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 also killed three researchers.
However, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching the Noor, or Light, satellite into a low orbit circling the Earth. The IRGC launched its second reconnaissance satellite into space this March at another site in Semnan province. State media said that the Noor-2 satellite reached a low orbit of 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface on the Qased – or Messenger -- satellite carrier, also a three-phase, mixed-fuel space launch vehicle.
The United States says that space launches by Iran defy UN Security Council resolution 2231 and could be a cover to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that would be able to deliver nuclear warheads. The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment, published in March, claims such a satellite launch vehicle “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile for Iran as it uses “similar technologies.”
Resolution 2231 in 2015 formalized the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers known as the JCPOA. It banned missile technologies capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
Expressing concern about the launch, a Pentagon spokesman US Army Major Rob Lodewick, said the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”
Zoljanah is named after the horse of third Shiite imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. The satellite carrier is 25.5 meters long and weighs about 52 tons. It utilizes a 1.5-meter diameter solid fuel engine with 74 tons of thrust.