Iran has already developed a long-range missile of its own. Iran’s defence minister has vowed that the country will launch a satellite of its own within 18 months. “Iran will be the first Islamic country to enter the stratosphere with its own satellite and its own indigenous launch system,” minister Ali Shamkhani said. His comments – at a Tehran aerospace conference – are thought to be the first official indication of the time frame for Iran’s space programme. Iran has developed its own submarine and long-range ballistic missile.
Mr Shamkhani described Iran’s aerospace programme as being part of the country’s “deterrence force”, the official Irna news agency reported. He said universities and the defence industry were co-operating on the satellite – but gave no details as to what type of satellite was planned. Iran has been seeking a communications satellite since the 1980s and has taken bids from a number of countries for the project, Irna reported. Shamkhani said the satellite would be launched soon Tehran suspended discussions with Russia over the project due to contractual disputes, the Russian news agency Interfax reported in August.
Among Islamic countries, Pakistan has used Russian facilities to launch satellites, but does not have its own launch technology. Iran has worked to develop its own military technology since relations with the United States – formerly its major arms supplier – were cut in the wake of the 1979 revolution. It unveiled the al-Sabehat-15 mini-submarine in August 2000, and brought the Shahab-3 ballistic missile into service three years later. The missile is believed to be based on technology bought from North Korea and Pakistan.
Iran has also developed its own nuclear programme, which it says is for civilian use. The United States suspects it of seeking to build nuclear weapons. In December, Iran officially agreed to let the UN nuclear watchdog inspect its nuclear facilities.