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Iran announces new satellite launch in works

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Iran planned to launch a new satellite, another potential step forward for space ambitions that have raised concerns in the West.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Iran planned to launch a new satellite into orbit, another potential step forward for the country's space ambitions that have raised concerns in the West.

"Iran plans to launch a ... more sophisticated ... satellite into space," Iran's official news agency, IRNA, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying despite concerns in the West over the launch of Iran's first domestically made satellite in February.

Ahmadinejad said a rocket with a range of some 450 to 950 miles would carry the satellite into space. The new satellite is intended to go higher than the one launched in February.

His remarks came during a meeting with a group of Iranian expatriates. The report gave no details about when the launch would happen.

The first domestically made Iranian satellite, called Hope or Omid in Farsi, ended its mission in late March after some 40 days in orbit, about 155 to 310 miles above Earth.

The February satellite launch and Iran's ambitious space program have prompted concern in the West because the same rocket technology used to carry satellites into orbit can also deliver warheads.

Iran rejects the concerns saying its space technology is aimed at peaceful purposes such as communications, meteorological studies and geological research.

For nearly a decade, Iran has expressed an intention to develop a national space program.

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 is a partner in transferring space technology to Iran. That same year, the government said it had allocated $500 million for space projects in the next five years.

Iran, which plans to launch three more satellites by 2010, also says it plans to put a man into orbit within 10 years.

Iran and the United States and its allies have been at odds with Iran over its nuclear program which the U.S. worries may be used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly to develop energy.