Iran plans to be first Islamic nation to launch its own satellite

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Iran plans to conduct its first indigenous space launch in 2005.

"Within 18 months, Iran will launch its own satellite," Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said. "Iran will be the first Islamic country to enter the stratosphere with its own satellite and its own, indigenous launch system."

Iranian officials said the Defense Ministry plans to complete a booster and satellite over the next year for orbit in 2005, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the booster would rely on technology from the Shihab-3 program.

Shamkhani, in comments to Iran's state media, did not identify the satellite or the booster. But he said the space program was part of Iran's defense efforts.

"There was a time when the Persian Gulf was a source of threats against the Islamic republic, but today with the power we have obtained this region can no longer be used against us by any non-regional power," Shamkhani said.

"The aerospace capacity of the Islamic republic is one of the main means of deterrence for the country, and is acquired through cooperation between the defense industries and universities."

Iranian officials said Teheran has long been planning its first space launch. But they said Shamkhani's assertion was the first time in more than two years that a senior official provided a timetable for the launch.

The Islamic republic has issued a range of diverse statements regarding its space program. As late as 2001, Shamkhani said the Shihab-4 intermediate-range missile was actually a satellite launcher. In late 2003, however, the Defense Ministry denied that it was conducting a Shihab-4 program, a missile that aimed to reach a range of at least 2,000 kilometers.

In September, Iran exhibited at a Teheran parade what it termed were operational Shihab-3 missiles. An Iranian announcer said the range of the missile was 1,700 kilometers.

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