TEHRAN – Iran will use a modified version of its Shahab-3 missile, which defence experts say can reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf, to launch a test satellite before March 2005, a defence industry source says.
He said the missile would carry a 20 kg (44 lb) experimental satellite to an orbit of 250 km (155 miles) above the earth.
“It is just an experimental satellite which will send a simple signal,” he said on Monday, adding that the project was called Safir-313. Safir is Persian for emissary.
This would be Iran’s first launch of a test satellite into space. It announced in January that it wanted to be the first Islamic country to go into space and added that it was building a launchpad, without elaborating.
Iran last month carried out tests of what it described as an upgraded version of the Shahab-3 medium-range missile. Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 810 miles (1,300 km), which would allow it to strike anywhere in Israel.
Military analysts say that countries often use their satellite launch programmes as inroads to weapons technology.