TEHRAN, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will send its first man into space on board its own spacecraft by 2021, the head of Iran's Aerospace Agency announced on Thursday.
"Scientific research has already begun in Iran," Reza Tagipur was quoted by Iranian media as saying. "According to our plans, a successful Iranian manned spaceflight will be carried out before 2021."
"India and China were able to send their astronauts into space after 15 years of research and preparations. We will also go the same route, but believe we will achieve our goal in a shorter period," he said.
Iran's Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies Mohammad Soltani told journalists on Thursday that "another seven satellites are being developed in Iran."
According to the minister, four of the satellites have a payload of up to 100 kilograms (220 lbs) and are meant for a low-Earth orbit.
"Iran's young scientists are working shoulder to shoulder to conquer space, that is why they are now building seven more satellites," Soltani said.
Iran put its first communications satellite, Omid (Hope), into a low Earth orbit on February 2. The research satellite, which contains communications and digital equipment, was carried into orbit by a domestically-made launch vehicle, Safir (Messenger).
With the February launch, Iran became the eighth country in the world able to independently put satellites into space, after Russia, the U.S., France, China, India, Japan, and Israel.
The United States, France, Israel and Britain have already expressed concern over the launch, voicing suspicions that Tehran may be developing long-range ballistic missile technology that could be used to launch nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its space program is of an entirely peaceful nature.