Iran aims to send an astronaut to space within 10 years

Iran's space agency plans to send a manned rocket into space in the next 10 years, state television reported on Thursday.

Iran's space agency plans to send a manned rocket into space in the next 10 years, state television reported on Thursday.

Space agency chief Reza Taghipoor said the exact date of the mission would be determined in the next year.

The announcement is the latest signal of Iran's growing ambition to develop a space and satellite program and comes days after the country announced it had launched a dummy satellite into orbit.

Taghipoor said the two-stage rocket, launched Sunday, released equipment that beamed flight data back to ground control, though U.S. officials said the rocket fell short of its claimed success.

In February, the Islamic republic's space agency unveiled its first major space centre and its first domestically built satellite, and it also tested one of its rockets.

Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters and improve telecommunications. Its developing space program has provoked unease abroad, as the same technology used to put satellites into space can also deliver warheads.

After Sunday's rocket launch, Iranian officials also said they hoped other Muslim countries would be able to use their satellites for communications.

Iran is hoping to join a select few countries with the ability to independently place satellites into orbit, a group that includes regional rival Israel as well as India.

The plan for manned spaceflight is even more ambitious, with only the United States, Russia and China having successfully launched such missions, though Japan and India have also stated ambitions to launch their own, independent space programs.

The first Iranian to go to space was Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian-American businesswoman who flew aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket as the fourth space tourist to visit the International Space Station.

With files from the Associated Press