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Mon, Feb 26, 2007

Iran Says Reported Space Launch Was A Research Rocket

Missile Reached Suborbital Space, Carried Atmospheric Equipment

Iranian officials announced Sunday the country successfully launched a rocket into suborbital space, apparently to further its plans to eventually launch satellites into orbit.

Iran Aerospace Research Director Mohsen Bahrami was quoted by the Iranian Student News Agency this weekend as saying the research rocket "was launched successfully into space." Another official, Ali Akbar Golrou, later told the Fars News Agency the sounding rocket reached an altitude of 94 miles, before it returned to earth via parachute.

"The rocket was launched only for scientific and research purposes," said Golrou, according to the New York Times. "Some of the news agencies have reported that a missile has been launched into space, which is false." Earlier reports had stated the rocket was part of a weapons test, and that it had achieved orbit.

Iran has made no secret its plans to become a space-capable power. The country launched its first satellite aboard a Russian rocket in 2005, and Iranian officials have said in the past they're working to modify the country's Shahab-3 intercontinental ballistic missile, to launch communications satellites into orbit.

Bahrami told ISNA the rocket launched this weekend carried atmospheric measuring equipment, developed by the Aerospace Research Center and the Ministry of Defense. Defense Minister Mohammad Najar told the Etemad Meli daily newspaper that "building satellites, launchers, launching the first satellite of Sina with Russia and entering the space club, creating missile test centers and expanding its infrastructure and training personnel are among the ministry’s plans."

The timing of Iran's launch comes two months after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution banning trade of technologies and items that could benefit the country's nuclear and missile programs. The ban was in response to Iran's refusal to comply with a deadline to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium.



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