Iran successfully launched its first satellite, marking a symbolic step that has some security experts concerned about possible implications regarding space militarization.
The country launched its first domestically manufactured satellite aboard a Safir-2 rocket, with the stated intentions of research and telecommunications, Iranian TV officials said. Iran's launch of its Omid (meaning "Hope") satellite was scheduled to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.
Security experts from the United States, France, and several other nations showed great concern after the successful launch, though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it had only peaceful intentions for the Iranian space program.
As the United States continues to struggle finding money for NASA, space programs in China, Russia, Iran and India continue to increase their presence in space -- which some U.S. politicians find troubling. There is a high amount of concern over the possibility Iran may use its space program to launch ballistic missiles, and the Iranian satellite program may be using technology that could launch missiles.
It's even more serious because the United Nations has sanctions in place against Iran because the country is reportedly interested in building nuclear weapons, and the launch technology could be used to attack other nations with a long-range missile with a nuclear warhead.
"There's almost always a link between satellite programs like this and military programs and there's almost always a link between satellites and nuclear weapons," Center for Strategic and International Studies defense technology expert James Lewis told the Associated Press. It's the same delivery vehicle."
However, Iranian officials have repeatedly stated the country's goals involve furthering its growing space program, and not launching missiles.
"Iran's satellite technology is for purely peaceful purposes and to meet the needs of the country," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a press conference.
In February 2008, the country launched a low-orbit research rocket, and then launched a rocket able to carry satellites into orbit last August. Prior to its own launch, Iran was forced to rely on Russian rockets to launch satellites into space.