Iran will launch next week an experimental observation satellite, on the day of talks with world powers over its controversial nuclear programme, the official IRNA news agency reported on Monday.
"The Fajr satellite will be launched on Khordad 3 (May 23)," the director of the Aerospace Industries Mehdi Farahi was quoted as telling.
It will be the fourth satellite sent into space since 2009 by Iran, whose space programme has attracted the concern of international community which is suspecting Tehran is seeking to develop long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying conventional warheads or nuclear ones.
This is the first time that the Islamic republic has announced in advance a date for the launch of a satellite. Previous launches were reported after the operations were successfully undertaken.
On May 23 Iran opens talks with world powers in Baghdad over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme which has been denounced by several members of the UN Security Council.
The Security Council has imposed on Iran an almost total embargo on nuclear and space technologies since 2007.
Part of the international community, namely the West, suspects Iran, despite its denials, of seeking to develop nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal to be able to equip its missiles.
Iran's previous satellite launches triggered condemnation from the West who accused Tehran of "provocation."
The Fajr (Dawn) satellite was presented by the Iranian officials as "an observation and measurement" satellite weighing 50 kilos (110 pounds), built by Sa-Iran, a company affiliated to the defence ministry.
Fajr, which is equipped with solar panels, has an expected life of 18 months, much longer than the three previous observation equipment or experimental communications satellite already put into orbit by Iran which lasted a few weeks.
Iran has so far launched Omid in February 2009, Rassad in June 2011 and Navid in February 2012.
Farahi said that Fajr would be launched by Safir-B1 rocket which is able to place a load of 50 kilos on a low orbit of 300 to 450 kilometres (186-279 miles).
According to experts, the Safir-B1 is close to the Iranian ballistic missile Shahab-3 which is derived from the North Korean No-Dong missile.
Farahi said the aero-space industry has employed 10,000 Iranian directly and another 500,000 indirectly.
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