TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will launch two more research rockets into space before putting its first domestically built satellite into orbit, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday, claiming the first rocket launch earlier this month was a success.
The hard-line president, speaking at a rally marking the 29th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, said with the rocket launches and the recent unveiling of its first major space center, his country had the ability to send an Iranian-made satellite into orbit — hopefully this summer.
"Having a presence in space is the need for a nation to enjoy a glorious life," Ahmadinejad said. "Today, we possess all the fundamental sections needed to launch a satellite into space. We built all (of the sections) ourselves."
Iran launched its first research rocket on Feb. 4 when it also announced the space center and its first indigenous satellite — called Omid, or Hope.
Iran has long declared a goal of developing a space program, but the same technology used to put satellites in space can also be used to deliver warheads. The country's space program, like its nuclear power program, has provoked unease abroad.
The U.S. 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, and analysts have expressed doubts about such technological achievements announced by the country in the past.
On Monday, Ahmadinejad offered the first details about the Feb. 4 launch of the rocket, called Kavoshgar-1, or Explorer-1.
He said the first section of the rocket detached after 90 seconds and returned to earth with help of a parachute. The second part entered space for about five minutes, he said.
The third section of the rocket, which included it's head, was sent toward orbit, he said.
"Equipment placed on the head of Explorer-1 collects information on determining the path, pressure, wind, temperature and geographical situation and sends them back to earth," Ahmadinejad said.
The research rocket will determine the best route before the Omid satellite can be launched, he added.
"By the grace of God, Explorer-1 was launched successfully. The information collected is at the disposal of our scientists," he said.
Ahmadinejad said Iran now possessed all the means for a comprehensive space program including a space center, launch vehicle, launch pad and underground control station.
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. Iranian officials also point to America's use of satellites to monitor Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar abilities for their security.
In 2005, Iran launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket, in a joint project with Moscow, which appears to be the main partner in transferring space technology to Iran.
Iranian officials have said the country wants to launch a satellite on an indigenous rocket and indicated they are developing a Shahab-4 missile to do that. Iran's powerful ballistic missile, the Shahab-3, is believed to have a range of at least 1,300 kilometers (800 miles), putting Israel and much of the Middle East in range. In November, Iran said it had manufactured a new missile, the Ashoura, with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles).
Iran hopes to launch four more satellites by 2010, the government has said.