Forbes – August 18, 2008
Iran said it had sent a rocket carrying a dummy satellite into space on Sunday, triggering fresh concern in Washington that the technology could be diverted to ballistic missiles.
The launch is likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear drive, which Iran's arch-foe Washington and its allies claim is a cover for atomic weapons ambitions.
'The Safir (Ambassador) rocket was successfully launched. All its systems... are Iranian-made,' Reza Taghipour, head of Iran's space agency, told state television, adding that a 'test satellite was put into orbit.'
'We have paved the way for placing a satellite in space in future,' state television said, showing images of the pre-dawn rocket launch which was attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Western governments, already concerned over Iran's nuclear activities, have warned that the technology used in the Islamic republic's space programme could be diverted to military use, claims denied by Tehran.
'The Iranian development and testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about their intentions,' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
'This action and dual use possibilities for their ballistic missile program are inconsistent with their UN Security Council obligations.'
A top Iranian official told AFP that state media reports that the country's first domestically-built satellite, called Omid or Hope, had been launched were not correct.
A defence ministry statement carried by the official news agency IRNA had said the rocket, 'built by Iranian experts' was launched with Omid. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the media was mistaken.
Iran's Arabic-language state television broadcast footage of the rocket heading into space and graphics showing a satellite separating from a rocket.
Sunday's development comes amid an international standoff over Tehran's long-standing refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb.
Israel and its staunch ally the United States have never ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites, although currently Washington has said it is pursuing the diplomatic option.
On Sunday, Iran's air force commander said its fighter jets have been upgraded to allow them to fly 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) without refuelling which would put Israel easily within reach.
'We do not wish to attack another country... but we will defend ourselves should we be attacked,' Brigadier General Ahmad Mighani added, without however mentioning Israel.
Ahmadinejad has made Iran's scientific development one of the main themes of his presidency, asserting that the country has reached a peak of progress despite sanctions and no longer needs to depend on foreign states for help.
'This satellite, the rocket and the launch station are entirely Iranian-built, achieved by particularly talented scientists and technicians,' Ahmadinejad told reporters in Turkey last week, announcing that the satellite would be launched soon, IRNA said.
In February, Iran triggered international concern when it said it had sent a probe into space on the back of a rocket to prepare for a satellite launch, and announced the opening of its space station in a remote western desert.
Iran is risking a possible fourth round of U.N. sanctions after it failed to give a clear response to an incentives package offered by six major world powers in return for halting uranium enrichment.
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, insists its nuclear work is aimed purely at generating electricity.
In February, the deputy head of Iran's space organisation said the Omid satellite would be put into orbit at an altitude of 650 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth, passing over Iran six times every 24 hours.
Iran has pursued a space programme for several years, and in Oct. 2005 a Russian-made Iranian satellite named Sina-1 was put into orbit by a Russian rocket.
Sunday's launch came on the birth anniversary of eighth century Imam Mahdi, who vanished as a boy and who Shiites believe will return one day as the messiah.
MK Ben-Yisrael: Iran far from launching espionage satellite
J Post.com – August 18, 2008
Iran is very far from launching an espionage satellite, former head of the Israel Space Agency, Kadima MK Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, said Monday morning, following the Islamic Republic's claim that it had successfully test-launched a rocket capable of carrying a satellite to outer space.
In an interview with Army Radio, Ben-Yisrael added that in his opinion, Iran was attempting to deter the US and Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities, and therefore, the exaggerated Israeli scare following the announcement was playing into the hands of Teheran.
"If Iran were to announce it had successfully launched a satellite into space, this claim could be verified within a day or two," Ben-Yisrael said.
Watch a video of the launch here.
Last updated 20/08/2008