February 05, 2008

Iran tests sounding rocket, unveils first homemade satellite

12:32 | 04/ 02/ 2008

TEHRAN/MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - Iran successfully launched on Monday a sounding rocket as a preliminary step toward sending its first homemade research satellite into orbit, national media said.

Iran's state television earlier reported that Iranian scientists had built the Omid (Hope) research satellite under a project that took 10 years to complete. The satellite was unveiled on Monday during an official ceremony and may be launched by March 2009.

"We need to have an active and influential presence in space," said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who attended the rocket launch and the opening of the first national space launch center.

A sounding rocket, also called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying craft designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight.

Iranian media gave no details about the rocket, called Kavoshgar-1, but some experts believe it could be a variant of the Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles).

Iran's official news agency IRNA said the Omid advanced research satellite had been designed to operate in a low earth orbit and provide a variety of scientific data.

Iran's space program, along with other technological advancements in the country that have potential military applications, has been received warily by Western powers which suspect Tehran of secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Sinah-1, the first Iranian satellite, was built by Russia and launched on October 28, 2005 on a Kosmos-3 booster rocket from North Russia's Plesetsk Space Center, making Iran the 43rd country to possess its own satellite.

However, Iran still hopes to become a satellite-launching nation.

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