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Iranian rocket transmits data to Earth

RIA Novosti

17/02/2008 17:24 TEHRAN, February 17 (RIA Novosti) - A sounding rocket launched by Iran on February 4 as a preliminary step toward sending its first research satellite into orbit has transmitted data back to the country, national media said on Sunday.

Scientific information was sent back to Iran from an orbit of 200-250 km (125-155 miles) above the Earth, Iranian media cited Mehran Mirshams, an Iran Aerospace Association official, as saying.

Iran's state-run television had reported at the beginning of the month that Iranian scientists had built the Omid (Hope) research satellite under a project that took 10 years to complete. The satellite may be launched by March 2009.

"We need to have an active and influential presence in space," said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who attended the February 4 rocket launch.

A sounding rocket, also called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying craft designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight.

Iranian media gave no details about the rocket, called Kavoshgar-1, but some experts believe it could be a variant of the Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles).

Both Russia and the West reacted warily to the space program development.

"Any progress in the development of this [long-range ballistic missile] weaponry certainly worries us and others," said Alexander Losyukov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, on February 6.

The White House issued a statement on the day of the Iranian launch calling it an "unfortunate" development.

"It's unfortunate Iran continues to test ballistic missiles. This regime continues to take steps that only further isolate it and the Iranian people from the international community," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

"We do not approve of Iran's constant demonstration of its intention to develop its missile sector, and to continue uranium enrichment," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

However, he said that "from the standpoint of international law such actions are not forbidden."

Iran later refuted that the rocket launch possessed a military nature, and said it was designed to obtain meteorological data.

"We hope that these rockets will enable us to receive more reliable data about climate change," the Islamic republic's ambassador to Moscow, Gholamreza Ansari, told a news conference at RIA Novosti on February 8.

Iran is currently involved in a long-running dispute with the West over its controversial uranium enrichment program, with two sets of UN sanctions against Tehran in effect. The U.S. and its allies fear that its space and nuclear programs may both serve as a cover for the development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

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