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Ahmadinejad vows to launch Iran's first manned spacecraft in 2017

RIA Novosti

21:16 05/08/2010 MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday his country would launch its first manned spacecraft in 2017 instead of in 2019, IRNA news agency reported.

"This project is another step towards the implementation of the Iranian Space Agency's program on the construction and launch of a spacecraft into [geostationary] orbit, which is more than 35,000 km from Earth," Ahmadinejad said.

He added that the current sanctions against Iran would not hamper the implementation of the project.

"Western powers think the toughened sanctions, which limit supplies of materials to Iran, have a material influence on Iran and think this will put pressure on the Iranian people," Ahmadinejad said.

On June 9, the UN Security Council approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, including tougher financial controls and an expanded arms embargo, as well as an asset ban on three dozen companies and a travel freeze on individuals.

Later, the United States and the EU imposed extra unilateral sanctions against Iran, including tougher restrictions on the energy sector and a tougher trade embargo.

Iran has made significant progress in developing its space industry since the launch of its first commercial satellite, Sina-1, into orbit on board a Russian carrier rocket.

Iran's first research satellite, Omid (Hope), designed for gathering information and testing equipment, was orbited in February 2009 and successfully completed its mission on April 25 the same year.

Since launching the Omid, Tehran has unveiled three new satellites (Tolou, Mesbah II and Navid) and one carrier rocket.

While Iran insists its space program is exclusively peaceful, there are concerns in the West that the country could be using it to as a cover for developing its ballistic missile arsenal.

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