iran satellite 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
They said the satellite would be purely scientific. But a month after its launch - and only weeks after the Iranian president said Israel should be wiped off the map - the head of Iran's space program now says the Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on the Jewish state.
The launch of the Russian-made Sina-1 satellite into orbit aboard a Russian rocket last month marked the beginning of Iran's space program, and officials say a second satellite - this one Iranian-built - will be launched in about two months, heightening Israeli concerns.
The Sina-1's stated purpose is to take pictures of Iran and monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation. Sina-1, with a three-year lifetime, has a resolution precision is about 50 meters (yards).
But as it orbits the Earth some 14 times a day from an altitude around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), with controllers able to point its cameras as they wish, Sina-1 gives Iran a limited space reconnaissance capability over the entire Middle East, including Israel.
"Sina-1 is a research satellite. It's not possible to use it for military purposes," Deputy Telecom Minister Ahmad Talebzadeh - who heads the space program - said.
But he agreed that it could spy on Israel.
"Technically speaking, yes. It can monitor Israel," he told The Associated Press. "But we don't need to do it. You can buy satellite photos of Israeli streets from the market."