Iran says it has sent another rocket into space

Conflicting reports on the fate of the mission which included a space lab.

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By  AFP Published  November 26, 2008

Iran has sent a second rocket into space to follow up on the success of its first launch in February, state television reported on Wednesday.

It said the 'Kavoshgar 2', or Explorer 2, rocket "landed 40 minutes later with a special parachute after performing its functions."

The broadcaster showed a graphic of the rocket followed by around 10 seconds of footage of it blasting off. It resembled Iran's powerful military Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is 17m long.

The website said Kavishgar 2 comprised three parts, including a space laboratory.

"The main achievements of the launch were to carry out space experiments on the atmosphere, to test the retrieval system and [ensure] coordination between the scientists in an academic project," it said.

Wednesday's mission was "a success that boosts confidence and national pride" because of "its safe and sound return to earth - a first in Iran."

State news agency IRNA said the launch was "in line with Iran's strategic space programme and in order to prepare the grounds for further scientific and technological progress."

On Feb. 4, Iran announced the launch of the first Kavoshgar and said afterwards that the rocket had reached an altitude of 200km before returning to earth.

However there were conflicting reports on the mission's fate, with one scientific source saying it had returned to earth and another implying that it remained in space.

The United States condemned the February launch and said it risked further isolating Iran from the international community at a time of growing tensions with Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran has pursued a space programme for several years, and in October 2005 a Russian-made Iranian satellite dubbed 'Sina-1' was put into orbit by a Russian rocket.

In February, Iran said it had sent a probe into space on the back of Kavoshgar to prepare for a satellite launch, and announced the opening of a space station in a remote western desert.

At the time, officials said a satellite called 'Omid' would be sent into space in May or June.

On August 17, the country test-fired a Safir (Ambassador) rocket which state television said was capable of putting a "light satellite into low earth orbit" between 250km and 500km above the earth.

The liquid propellant-fuelled Shahab-3 ballistic missile is a derivation of North Korea's No-Dong missile. In 2005, Iran said it had boosted its range from around 1,500km to 2,000km.

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