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Iran announces successful launch of sub-orbital rocketnews
26 February 2007

Teheran: Iran has announced the successful launch of an indigenously developed rocket into space. The sub-orbital launch also brings the country one step closer to launching its own commercial satellites.

According to Iran's Aerospace Research Centre, the rocket was designed to rise about 150 kilometers into the atmosphere before coming down to earth by parachute.

"The rocket was carrying material intended for research created by the ministries of science and defense," Mohsen Bahrami, the head of Iran's Aerospace Research Centre, said on state television. Details on the nature of the cargo were not revealed, and interestingly, pictures of the launch were not broadcast either.

Iran's successful launch of a space rocket would appear to be the Islamic State's first major step towards attaining its stated ambition of putting homemade satellites into space, on the back of indigenously produced rockets. It launched its first satellite, Sina-1, into orbit on the back of a Russian rocket in 2005. Sina-1 is the country's first, and so far, only probe to be launched into space.

According to the local press reports of the time, Sina-1's payload was intended for research and telecommunications purposes. Iran has said it is planning the construction and launch of several more satellites over the next three years.

Given the rising tensions in the region, Iranian officials were quick to emphasize on the indigenous nature of the rocket, which were in line with the statements it has made about its nuclear program.

"All the tests (leading up to the launch) have been carried out in the country's industrial facilities in line with international regulations," said Bahrami.

Defense minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said the US trade embargo imposed in the wake of the Islamic revolution in 1979 had spurred Iran to press ahead with developments in its space program. "The sanctions of the enemies in the area of aerospace have allowed us to develop our aviation, space and electronics industries," he said.

"We are working on constructing satellites and rockets capable of launching a satellite into space," he added.

Iran has already announced the development of a plasma-thrusting engine to help guide satellites as part of its space program.

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Iran announces successful launch of sub-orbital rocket