The Defense Minister of Iran said Saturday that it is close to being ready to launch its own satellites into orbit from a new space launch facility in an undisclosed location in the country.
The facility, which Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said is about 80 percent complete, will become part of a growing satellite launch system in Iran. The Islamic Republic operates a launch complex 125 miles east of Tehran in Semnan, along with a monitoring facility near Mahdashat west of the capital.
The Associated Press reports that the new facility will be named for Ayatollah Ruhollah Kohmeini, who rose to power after the Shah was deposed and the country became an Islamic Republic. Kohmeini died 23 years ago June 3rd.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA said an Iranian-built Simorgh light booster will carry a Tolo satellite into orbit as the first launch from the new center, but did not give any indication as to when that launch might occur.
Iran has been working towards becoming a space-capable nation for decades. It recently said it had launched several small animals into space for research purposes, and boosted its first commercial satellite into orbit atop a Russian rocket. Moscow is thought to be providing much of Iran's space technology. U.S. and other Western officials remain concerned about the military implications of a space-capable Iran.