Not to be left behind in the space race, Iran has almost completed its new space center. This will be used to launch satellites made by Iran and other Muslim nations.
The country´s defense minister has advised that the new space center is 80% complete.
Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Saturday that the first space mission from this new facility will be the launch of Tolou (Dawn) satellite.
Vahidi said, "Some 80 percent of the actual construction of the new space center has been completed," adding that the new facility will send "satellites from Iran, the regional countries and the world of Islam into orbit in the near future."
Vahidi did not provide a timeline for the launch and no mention of the location of the center was made.
Apparently the space center has been named after Ayatollah Khomeini, most probably because the country is currently commemorating the anniversary of the leader´s death in the 1979 revolution.
At present there are two facilities in Iran involved in space exploration. There is a launch center near Semnan, around 200 kms east of Tehran. In Mahdasht, 70 kms west of the capital, is a satellite monitoring site.
The space program is not new to Iran, as their work has been in process for decades. Iran built its first locally designed and produced spacecraft in the mid 2000´s, which was boosted into orbit by a Russian carrier. In 2009, Iran´s first independent space mission was achieved.
Back in February 2010, Iran reported that it had successfully launched several animals into space on a research rocket, and they plan to perform their first manned space flight within the next 10 years.
Critics are concerned about Iran´s space exploits and say they the country wants to build a nuclear-capable missile, as part of Iran´s nuclear research program. They state that rocket technology, needed for launching spacecraft could also have military applications.
RT reports that Tehran has denied these allegations, and says that the country´s interest in space exploration is purely civilian. The country needs satellites for weather forecasting, disaster monitoring and also surveillance of its territory.