By James Oberg
NBC News space analyst
The launch of an Iranian rocket sparked days of debate over what its intended mission was — and although officials in Tehran are characterizing it as merely a test of the launch vehicle, U.S. military intelligence officials now see it as a failed attempt to put a satellite in orbit.
A defense official confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday that the Iranian attempt was being viewed as a failure, and that Iran's claims about the missile test were seen as a cover story to conceal this.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the assessment, but his views echo other reports emerging from Western intelligence sources.
According to the Pentagon source, the Safir ("Messenger") rocket was launched just before 3 p.m. ET on Saturday from a base near Semnan in northern Iran, carrying what he cal
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