An Iranian official has published an image of a satellite after an apparent rocket explosion at the space centre where it was meant to be launched.
The minister had directly addressed US president Donald Trump in a tweet after the American leader shared what appeared to be a surveillance photo of the aftermath of the blast.
The tweet from Iran’s information and communications technology minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi including a selfie of him in front of the Nahid-1 appeared with Tehran yet to acknowledge Thursday’s explosion at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre.
While details over the incident remain unclear, it marks the third failure involving a launch at the centre, which has raised suspicions of sabotage in Iran’s space programme.
The US has criticised the initiative as a way for Tehran to advance its ballistic missiles.
Mr Trump directly acknowledged those suspicions in his tweet on Friday, and denied any US involvement.
The US leader wrote: “The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.
“I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
Mr Jahromi, a rising politician in Iran’s Shia theocracy, responded to Mr Trump in his tweet early Saturday.
“Me & Nahid I right now, Good Morning Donald Trump!” he wrote in English.
Later, Mr Jahromi accompanied local journalists at the Tehran-based space research centre, showing them the satellite.
According to the state-run IRNA agency, Mr Jahromi said: “I have no idea about the Semnan space centre and the defence minister, who is in charge, should make a comment on this.”
The Semnan launching centre is in a province neighbouring the capital city, Tehran.
Commercially available satellite images by Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies showed a black plume of smoke rising above a launch pad on Thursday, with what appeared to be the charred remains of a rocket and its launch stand.
In previous days, satellite images had shown officials there repainting the launch pad blue.
The photo released on Friday by Mr Trump appeared to be a previously-classified surveillance photo from American intelligence agencies.
Analysts said the black rectangle in the photo’s upper-left-hand corner likely covered up the photo’s classification. As president, Mr Trump can declassify material.
The image showed damaged vehicles around the launch pad, as well as damage done to the rocket’s launcher. It also clearly showed a large phrase written in Farsi on the pad: “National Product, National Power”.
Mr Jahromi told The Associated Press in July that Tehran planned three satellite launches this year, two for satellites that carry out remote-sensing work and another that handles communications.
The Nahid-1 is reportedly the telecommunication satellite.
Nahid in Farsi means “Venus”. The satellite, which boasted 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 apparent failed rocket launch comes after two failed satellite launches of the Payam and Doosti in January and February. A separate fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in February also 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 US alleges such satellite launches defy a UN 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.
Tehran also says it has not violated the UN resolution as it only “called upon” the Iranian government not to conduct such tests.
The tests have taken on new importance to the US amid the maximalist approach to Iran taken by Mr Trump’s administration.
Tensions have been high between the countries since Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions, including on Iran’s oil industry.
Iran has recently begun to break the accord itself while trying to push Europe to help it sell oil abroad.