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9 Jun, 2013 11:51

Iran announces security-oriented 'space tracking center'

Iran announces security-oriented 'space tracking center'

A new Iranian space monitoring center will track orbiting objects, the Iranian Defense Minister has said. It is the latest of Iran's space program claims, which include sending a monkey into orbit.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad praised the new center as a benchmark in the country's space program.

“This is a highly great achievement and we are among the few countries with such a center and if we send a satellite into the space, we can receive its information in our country,” Ahmadinejad said in an address inaugurating the center in Markazi province on Sunday.  He added that the "inauguration of this center has brought us one step closer to the complete use of space."

Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi told reporters that the center would mostly be used to monitor satellites passing overhead using radar, electro-optic and radio systems.

Iran already maintains a number of command and control stations around the country, and one inside the territory of its regional ally Syria.

The US, which has punished Iran with multiple rounds of sanctions to inhibit its supposed atomic weapons program, has voiced fears that developments in space technology could bring Tehran closer to making long-range missiles.

Tehran has denied these claims, maintaining that the space program is purely civilian-orientated. Of particular concern to Washington is Iran’s ambition to put more satellites into orbit, which Tehran says are aimed at monitoring earthquakes, improving security and increasing military surveillance.

Iran regularly boasts about its many technological advances. In March, the Aerospace Industries Organization claimed it sent a monkey into space aboard a Pioneer explorer rocket. The monkey allegedly returned to Earth alive after being sent into orbit at an altitude of 120 kilometers.

Iran also claims it sent a number of smaller animals into space, including a rat, turtles and worms aboard a capsule carried by its Kavoshgar-3 rocket in 2010. The Director of the Iran Space Agency (ISA), Hamid Fazeli, hailed the mission as a huge success and said it was a prelude to sending a human into space.