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Iran set to launch first domestic satellite by March 20

RIA Novosti

TEHRAN, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - Iran plans to put its first domestically made communication satellite into orbit by March 19-20, the head of the Iranian space agency has said.

"If we do not run into problems, the first domestic satellite will be put in orbit by the end of this [Iranian solar calendar] year," Reza Taqipour said.

He said that technical experts were working to complete the preparations, adding that the precise launch date for the Omid (Hope) satellite would be announced as it drew nearer.

In November, Iran launched a carrier space rocket, Kavoshgar 2 (Explorer 2), which returned to earth after completing its mission.

The project was part of the country's "strategic space program" and "preparation for scientific and technological developments in space," according to Iran's state TV IRIB.

Last August, Iran successfully launched a carrier rocket Safir (Messenger), capable of putting lightweight satellites into low-earth orbit.

Iran has said it plans to put a "series of satellites" into space by 2010 to aid natural disaster management programs and improve telecommunications.

The launches have aroused concerns throughout the world that Tehran is developing long-range ballistic missile technology that could be used to launch nuclear weapons.

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