Before and after satellite photos show Iranian rocket explosion on launch pad

An Iranian rocket exploded on a launch pad in northern Iran earlier this week.

Commercial satellite images have captured the smoky aftermath of an Iranian rocket exploding on a launch pad in northern Iran. Satellite pictures taken earlier this week indicated that Iran was preparing the launch pad for a test of a missile system.

The Iranian government did not publicly disclose any details about the rocket's explosion on Thursday. The rocket was apparently being readied to launch a satellite into orbit.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the Iranian rocket had exploded at the launch pad located at the at the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The official said it was unclear if the explosion occurred while the missile was being fueled or shortly after a failed launch.

Planet Lab satellite images taken on Tuesday showed preparations at the launch facility that included a fresh coat of blue paint for the circular launch pad.

Images taken by Planet Labs Inc. and Maxar on Thursday showed dark smoke billowing from what appears to be the burnt remains of the rocket. Additional burn marks could be spotted on the launch pad that appears to have lost half of its recent paint job.

The explosion would be the third failure this year that Iran has experienced in preparing to launch a rocket.

Iran often carries out ballistic missile testing within its own territory, in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution that secured the 2015 nuclear agreement that the United States and other global powers reached with Iran.

That resolution specifically "called upon" Iran from carry out testing of ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons. Iran has said that language is not a ban on such testing and that it is still allowed to conduct ballistic missile testing for conventional weapons.

Last December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Iran's test of a medium-range ballistic missile he said was capable of carrying multiple warheads and was a violation of that resolution.