Iran Announces First Rocket Launched "Into Space"

Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press
February 4, 2008

Iran launched a research rocket Monday and unveiled its first major space center, which will be used to launch research satellites, state-run television reported. (See video.)

The report said the rocket was the first launched by Iran "into space." But analysts have expressed doubts about similar technological achievements announced by the country in the past.

Last February Iran launched its first domestically built rocket, which did not reach orbit level.

"The first Iranian rocket Explorer-1 was fired into space," reported state TV, which showed live images of the event at the space center, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issuing the launch order.

"With the launch, Iran has joined the world's top 11 countries possessing space technology to build satellites and launch rockets into space."

The report did not specify the altitude reached by the research rocket. Space is considered to begin at 60 miles (100 kilometers) above ground.

Ham radio satellites—the lowest flying satellites—orbit between 100-300 miles (160-480 kilometers), while communication, weather, and global-positioning satellites fly between 250-12,000 miles (400-20,000 kilometers) above ground.

Some Western experts have raised the possibility that Iran's space program may be a cover to more fully develop its military ballistic missiles.

Before the launch, Ahmadinejad opened the space center, which includes an underground control station and space launch pad, according to state TV.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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