Iran inaugurated the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Semnan Province on Thursday, the first base in Southwest Asia for sending satellites into orbit, which has been described a “turning point” in the country’s space activities.
It is a large complex that includes the whole process of preparation, launch, control and guidance of space launch vehicles.
Hossein Shahrabi, the chairman of Iran’s Sairan Space Group, said that the base can meet Iran’s needs in this field for the next 10 years.
Shahrabi told the state TV that “the space center would allow Iran to start competing with world powers for launching light-weight satellites to low orbits of the earth”.
In its first mission, the base on Thursday successfully launched a space rocket called Simorq (Phonix), carrying the imaging satellite Tolou into space.
Simorq is capable of placing a satellite weighing up to 250 kg in an orbit 500 kilometers above earth.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the launch on Thursday with a message posted on his Instagram account.
“Today, space science is very important for us and the greater our scientific power is, the greater will be our sovereignty and dignity,” he wrote.
Iran launched its first locally-built satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009. The country also sent its first bio-capsule containing living creatures into space in February 2010, using Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3) carrier.
In February 2015, Iran placed the domestically-made Fajr (Dawn) satellite into orbit. The satellite is capable of taking and transmitting high-quality and accurate pictures to stations on Earth.
Simorq’s launch came days after the US Congress passed new sanctions against Iran over its development of missiles for defensive purposes. The bill, which also includes sanctions against Russia and North Korea, awaits US President Donald Trump’s approval.