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Iran Rocket Liftoff to Coincide With Atomic Meet

An Iranian orbital instrument is to be sent into space next week just as representatives from Tehran and six major governments are scheduled to begin a new meeting aimed at defusing a long-running standoff over the nation's atomic activities, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 29).

“The Fajr satellite will be launched on [May 23],” Mehdi Farahi, head of Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization, said in remarks quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency. The statement marked Iran's first early notice of a planned spacecraft deployment, according to AFP.

Iranian delegates are slated on the same day to meet in Baghdad with counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany in an effort to address suspicions that Tehran's atomic activities are geared toward establishment of an Iranian nuclear-weapon capability. Iran says its atomic activities have no military component (see related GSN story, today).

Iran would deploy the device on its Safir 1-B rocket, which can place a payload of more than 100 pounds in low earth orbit.

Iran's space activities have drawn concerns from the global community, as technology used to place objects into orbit can also be applied to ballistic missiles. The Safir 1-B rocket is similar in design to Tehran's Shahab 3 ballistic missile; planners created the latter launch platform along the lines of North Korea's intermediate-range Nodong ballistic missile.

The Fajr craft is slated to become the fourth orbiter placed in space by the Persian Gulf regional power. The Defense Ministry-linked firm Sa-Iran constructed the 110-pound system, which has been described to Iranian government personnel as an "observation and measurement” device. The sun-powered equipment's anticipated service period of one and a half years would extend over a significantly longer duration than Iran's past space-based equipment (Agence France-Presse/Dawn, May 14).

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Country Profile

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This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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