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Iran Claims to Have Launched Rocket Into Space as Part of Satellite Program

Iran said Sunday it successfully tested a rocket that went into space, apparently part of its drive to launch five satellites into orbit by 2010.

Iran's Science and Technology and Defense ministries built the craft, state-run television quoted Mohsen Bahrami, the head of Iran's Space Research Center, as saying.

Bahrami provided no other details beyond saying that Iran had successfully launched what he called a space rocket or space missile.

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Iran in the past has announced that it wanted to be able to send its own satellites, including commercial ones, into orbit. But it has revealed little information about the project.

In 2005, Iran launched its first such satellite in a joint project with Russia.

Iran hopes to launch four more satellites by 2010, the government has said, to increase the number of land and mobile telephone lines to 80 million from 22 million and expand the number of Internet users to 35 million from 5.5 million in the next five years.

Science and Technology Minister Mohammad Soleimani said Sunday that Iran would speed up its space program, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Investment in space is very serious and requires time, but we are trying to speed this up," IRNA quoted Soleimani as saying.

Iran need at least a 12 transponder satellites to enhance its communications and Internet systems. It signed a $132 million deal with a Russian firm to build and launch another telecommunications satellite two years ago.

Also in 2005, Iran said its next step would be the launch of a satellite on an Iranian-built rocket. Officials have said the country has been developing a Shahab-4 missile that will be used to launch a satellite into space.

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