The director of the Iranian Space Agency announced on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic will construct a new space center in the southeast of the country.

Dr. Hamid Fazeli did not specify the location of the new space center, but said its location was chosen to be as close as possible to the equator to make it easier to launch rockets into space.

According to Mashregh News, which is affiliated with the IRGC, Fazeli also said Iran plans to launch three domestically- produced satellites: the Fajr (Dawn), Sharif (Noble) and Nahid (Venus).

Fajr is a 50-kilogram satellite constructed by the Iranian Electronics Industry to carry an imaging payload, with a resolution of 500-1,000 meters and a lifespan of 18 months, the report said.

Sharif, manufactured by the Sharif University of Technology, is also an imaging satellite.

Nahid is a new satellite and earlier this year Fazeli was quoted as saying it is designed with folding solar panels for greater maneuverability in space.

Iran was set to launch Fajr in May, but the country’s state media announced that the project had been delayed because further tests were required.

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Jane’s Intelligence Review reported evidence of launch pad burn marks, however, claiming that the launch had been attempted but failed.

According to Mashregh, Fazeli said that the Nahid satellite will test new solar panel technologies.

Iran has been aggressively accelerating its space and missile program for the past several years, raising Western concerns over its military potential, particularly the implications for the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles.

Last March, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that Iran appeared to be undertaking rapid construction of its Semnan Space and Missile Center, the speed of the construction, which prevents extended satellite analysis, suggesting the secretive nature of the project.

That center, in the remote northern desert province of Semnan, has a launch pad area reminiscent of the Tongchang pad in North Korea, indicating that Pyongyang assisted Iran in building it, according to Jane’s.

A report last month in Iran’s Fars News, which is linked to the IRGC, reported that IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Ali Jafari had said a huge explosion at the Karaj missile complex in November 2011 had been due to Iran's research into solid state propulsion technologies for satellites, another suggestion that Iran’s satellite program has a military basis.

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