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President Trump Tweets Intelligence Image After Iran’s Failed Rocket Explosion and Offers Them “Best Wishes”

11

Ha! Bow, indeed.

An Iranian Satellite Launch Ends in Failure

Trump Tweets Intelligence Image After Iran’s Rocket Explosion And Offers Them “Best Wishes”

U.S. President Donald Trump appears to have taken the highly unusual step of releasing an official and relatively high resolution annotated U.S. intelligence image of the recent failed space launch at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center via Twitter and confirmed that it involved a Safir space launch vehicle. Trump also declared that the United States had no hand in the accident and offered Iran “best wishes” and “good luck.” It’s unclear if the President, who recently reiterated his willingness to meet with Iranian officials to try to de-escalate growing tensions, meant that to be an insult.

By: Joseph Trevithick  The Drive, August 30, 2019:

Trump sent out the Tweet with the message and attached image on Aug. 30, 2019. A black box at the upper left-hand corner appears to be a redaction of a previous classification marking. The social media post also indicates that the U.S. Intelligence Community refers to this particular launch pad as “Semnan Launch Site One.” This method of disclosure is unprecedented, but The War Zone, among others, has long reported that Trump routinely appears to send out missives on social media after receiving briefings, including those involving sensitive intelligence and military matters. Reports first emerged about the accident on Aug. 29, 2019, and Iran has since confirmed that it occurred.

“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV [space launch vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump wrote in his Tweet. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”

The image shows extensive damage to the gantry, transporter-erector-launcher vehicle, and various other supporting vehicles, equipment, on and around the launch pad. The exact source of the imagery is unclear.

Its resolution is significantly higher than is typically found on commercial satellite images. It could be from a U.S. intelligence satellite. The low angle of the shot also raises the possibility that an unmanned aircraft took the picture. The U.S. has used stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drones in the past to spy on sites inside Iran.

There is a visible flash reflected in the image and you can see hands, arms, the outline of a phone, all indicating that this is a picture of a physical photograph. It is very possible, if not probable, that Trump took the picture with his cell phone and posted it online. This could also account for what appears to be a slight bend in the image at the edges, though this could also indicate a panoramic image stitched together from multiple pictures. Those visible lines may also be from the printer.

Regardless, it is definitely distinct from the images that a satellite belonging commercial imagery firm Planet Labs took of the site on Aug. 29, 2019, which subsequently became public via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey that same day. Maxar, another commercial imagery company, also released additional imagery. Those pictures were the first indications that something had gone wrong with Iran’s latest attempted Safir launch.

“This look likes the space launch vehicle blew up on the launch pad,” Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute, told NPR after sharing the images with them. “This failure happened maybe a couple of minutes before the image was taken.”

 

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