Iran launches first satellite, joint project with Russia

Iran said Monday it has joined the club of countries enjoying space technology after launching its first satellite last week in a joint project with Russia, state-run television reported. Sina-1 was launched from Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia on Thursday, the report said.

"By placing Iran's Sina-1 (Z-S.4) in its designated orbit, we have practically joined the group of countries enjoying space technology. It was a big achievement," the broadcast quoted Telecom Minister Mohammad Soleimani as saying on his return to Tehran from a four-day visit to Beijing.

The sun-synchronized satellite will be used to take pictures of Iran and to monitor natural disasters. Its resolution precision is about 50 meters (yards).

Sina-1 blasted off aboard a Russian Kosmos 3M rocket as a joint project between Iran and Russia. Polyot, a Russian company based in the Siberian city of Omsk, built the 170-kilogram (375-pound) satellite for Iran. It will be commissioned for three years after it goes into effective operation next month.

It was not clear why the announcement of the launch was delayed.

It took some 32 months to construct the US$15 million (Ђ12.5 million) research satellite containing a telecommunications system and cameras that can monitor Iran's agriculture and natural resources as well as natural disasters.

The launch makes Iran the 43rd country to possess its own satellites.

Iran plans to launch four more satellites by 2010 to increase the number of land and mobile telephone lines to 80 million from 22 million, and Internet users to 35 million from 5.5 million in the next five years, the AP reports.

The country requires at least a 12-transponder satellite to enhance its communications and Internet systems. It signed a US$132 million deal with a Russian firm to build and launch another telecommunications satellite earlier this year.