Iran offers Muslim states space access

Follows announced launch of rocket capable of carrying satellite; all parts 'Iranian-made.'

iRANIAN saifr rocket 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
iRANIAN saifr rocket 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran is prepared to help friendly Muslim nations launch satellites into outer space, Iranian Space Agency head Reza Taghipour said Monday. "I declare that that Iran is ready to help friendly Muslim nations," Taghipour said in an announcement aired on Iranian television. "We are working on the satellites and gradually they will be carried into orbit." The announcement came a day after Iran claimed that it had successfully test-launched a rocket capable of carrying a satellite into outer space and that it planned to use the rocket to carry a research satellite into orbit. Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Muhammad Najjar said that the Islamic Republic was planning to launch a satellite into outer space in the near future. He said Saturday's test of the two-stage rocket, called the Safir, or Ambassador, was successful. "The Iranian experts succeeded in launching the rocket and very soon they will succeed in launching a satellite into space," he said, stressing that all the systems and components used in the launch were Iranian-made. State TV broadcast images of the nighttime launch. It said the Omid research satellite would gather atmospheric data from a low orbit but did not give a date for its launch. Iran has long held the goal of developing a space program. In 2005, it 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. Iran first tested a rocket it said was capable of delivering a satellite in February, saying that trial was also successful. It said then that it planned two more test launches before attempting to put its first domestically built satellite into orbit. The country's fledgling space program, like its nuclear program, has provoked unease abroad. The same technology used to put satellites into space can also be used to deliver warheads. The US said that it was concerned over Iran's claim that it had successfully test-launched the rocket. White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Sunday night that the launch was worrying and raised questions regarding Iran's intentions. He added that rockets of the type Iran tested on Sunday could also double as ballistic missiles and carry payloads and that the test-launch was not in keeping with commitments Iran gave in the past to the UN Security Council. Israeli security officials were quoted by Israel Radio as saying that even though a successful test-launch was no cause for panic in Israel, it did mean that Iran was making strides in its missile capabilities. "Whoever can launch a satellite to space can also launch heavy payloads to very far distances," the unnamed source said. Iran's announcement, the source added, should serve as warning for Europe more than Israel, which has been within range of Iran's ballistic missiles before Sunday's announcement. Former head of the Israel Space Agency, Kadima MK Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, said Monday morning that Iran was very far from launching an espionage satellite. In an interview with Army Radio, he added that in his opinion, Iran was attempting to deter the US and Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities, and therefore, the exaggerated Israeli scare following the announcement was playing into the hands of Teheran. "If Iran were to announce it had successfully launched a satellite into space, this claim could be verified within a day or two," Ben-Yisrael said.