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Iran test-fires rocket, giving lift to space effort

Fledgling program has stirred unease

An official spoke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran yesterday as he looked at a Safir-e Omid rocket. An official spoke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran yesterday as he looked at a Safir-e Omid rocket. (FARS NEWS via Reuters)
By Nasser Karimi
Associated Press / August 18, 2008
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TEHRAN - Iran has test-launched a rocket that it plans to use to carry a research satellite into orbit, state television reported yesterday.

The two-stage rocket, called the Safir-e Omid, or Ambassador of Peace, was successfully tested Saturday, according to state television, which broadcast images of the nighttime launch.

The rocket released equipment that beamed flight data back to ground control, Reza Taghipoor, head of Iran's space agency, said in a live television interview. Few details were available about the type of rocket or its payload.

Iran has long held the goal of developing a space program. In 2005, it launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow.

Iran first tested a rocket that it said was capable of delivering a satellite in February, saying that trial was also successful. It said then that it planned two more test launches before attempting to put its first satellite into orbit.

The country's fledgling space program, like its nuclear program, has provoked unease abroad. The same technology used to put satellites into space can also be used to deliver warheads.

The United States called the Feb. 4 launch "just another troubling development," saying it was a cause for concern about Iran's continuing development of medium- and long-range missiles.

Despite the anxiety over Iran's space program, it is not exactly clear how developed it is.

Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications.

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