Satellite imagery shared exclusively with NPR shows that an Iranian rocket appears to have exploded on the launch pad Thursday.

The imagery from the commercial company Planet, shows smoke billowing from the pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran. The pad had been given a fresh coat of paint in recent days, and numerous vehicles had been spotted around the site in preparation for the launch attempt.

“This look likes the space launch vehicle blew up on the launch pad,” says Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies who has analyzed the imagery taken Thursday.

The failure is the third this year. In January and February, Iran attempted to launch two rockets, both of which failed to reach orbit.

The exact type of rocket that failed Thursday is unclear, but the circular pad had previously been used to launch a type of two-staged, liquid-fueled rocket known as the Safir. The rocket is relatively small and can carry only small satellites into orbit. Earlier this month, Iran said one such satellite, known as Nahid-1 was ready to be launched.

Source » npr