Iran space centre now '80% complete'
Iran's new space centre, which will be used to launch both its own and other Islamic nations' satellites, is now 80% complete according to news reports.
Currently, Iran has two space exploration facilities - a launch centre near Semnan, 200 kilometres east of Tehran, and a satellite monitoring site outside Mahdasht, about 70 kilometres west of the Iranian capital.
Iranian defence minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi has not provided any timeline for the launch. He also failed to announce the location of the new centre, which will be named after the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Khomeini.
Vahidi said the first satellite to be launched from the new centre will be the Tolo, which will be carried into orbit by the Iranian-made Simorgh light booster rocket, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Iran is keen to progress its space programme. In Feb 2010, Iran announced it had successfully launched a menagerie of animals - including a mouse, two turtles and worms - into space on a research rocket.
It also has plans to put a man in orbit within the next 10 years.
Iran launched its first commercial satellite in 2005 on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow. Russia is said to be transferring space technology to Iran.
In 2005 the government also said it had allocated $500m for space projects for the next five years.
The West is concerned the programme masks efforts to enable launches for nuclear and other weapons aboard ballistic missiles, a charge Tehran denies, insisting it is only for peaceful purposes.
According to the Associated Press, Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters and improve its telecommunications.