Iran plans manned space mission in 10 years

TEHRAN Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:45am EDT

An artist's concept depicts the distant dwarf planet known as Eris on June 14, 2007. REUTERS/NASA-JPL/Caltech/Handout

An artist's concept depicts the distant dwarf planet known as Eris on June 14, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/NASA-JPL/Caltech/Handout

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran plans to send a manned rocket into space in the next 10 years, state television reported on Thursday, just days after the Islamic Republic announced it had put a dummy satellite into orbit.

Embroiled in a standoff with the West over its nuclear ambitions, Iran said on Sunday it had put a dummy satellite into orbit on a home-grown rocket for the first time.

U.S. security officials said Tehran's attempted satellite launch was a failure that fell short of claimed successes, but an analyst said the test marked a technical advance for Iran.

The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into space can also be used for launching weapons. Iran says it has no such intention.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear warhead, a charge Tehran denies, insisting its nuclear ambitions are aimed at generating electricity so it that it can export more of its massive oil and gas reserves.

"One of the aims of Iran's 10-year space program is to send a manned rocket into space," state television quoted Reza Taghipour, the head of Iran's aerospace organization, as saying.

"Within in the next six months to one year, the exact date of this mission will be determined," he added.

Taghipour said Iran would cooperate with Islamic countries in building a satellite that television said would be called, Besharat, meaning 'good news'. He also said Iran was working with Russia and other Asian states to launch another satellite.

U.S. officials said the vehicle which Iran said on Sunday had delivered a dummy satellite into space failed shortly after lift off and did not reach its intended position.

But Charles Vick, a senior analyst for GlobalSecurity.org research group, said Iran appeared to have succeeded in igniting the second stage of its booster rocket and gained data that will help it perfect its launch system.

(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari, writing by Edmund Blair)

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