Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Iran Launches Research Rocket, Space Center

Iran Daily reports that on Monday Iran launched a research rocket and unveiled its first major space center, in the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The president said the launch of the first space research center would be a great step toward serving mankind and mark Iran’s progress, IRNA reported.

“We witness today that Iran has taken its first step in space very firmly, precisely and with awareness. We need to have an active and effective presence in space,“ Ahmadinejad said in a speech. “Building and firing a satellite is a big and precious achievement.“

The country’s first space center comprises of the Omid (Hope), Iran’s first homemade research satellite designed and built by Iranian experts. The rocket marks the orbit for the launch of Omid.

Iran has been pursuing a nascent space program in the last few years and an Iranian satellite was put into orbit by a Russian rocket in October 2005.

The space center has been designed to send the Islamic Republic’s first homemade research satellite into orbit in the near future.

State television showed images of a large rocket strongly resembling Iran’s longer range missile Shahab-3 waiting to be fired on a mobile launcher.

The television did not disclose where the space station was situated, but ISNA news agency said it was in a desert area in northern Semnan province.

The Russian-launched satellite Sina-1 was Iran’s first--and so far only--probe to be launched into space, and was described by the Iranian press as pursuing research and telecommunications. Iran has said it plans to build and launch several more satellites over the next three years.

The achievement was widely appreciated in the western media. Reuters quoted London-based defense analyst Paul Beaver that Iran was making technological progress: “I think it is yet another indication that Iran’s technology is moving very quickly up the scale,“ he said. BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran says it is a highly symbolic moment for the launch, on the 29th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Patriotic music was aired on TV as it reported the story. Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi said the inauguration of Iran’s domestic aerospace center was a strong backup of the country’s Islamic system. Speaking on the sidelines of the center’s inauguration ceremony, the minister referred to the event as another “scientific breakthrough for Iranian scientists“. Zahedi referred to the center’s establishment as an ’honor’ for Iranians in the field of technology.