They said the satellite would be purely scientific. But a month after its launch and only weeks after the Iranian president said Israel should be wiped off the map the head of Iran's space program now says the Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on the Jewish state.
The launch of the Russian-made Sina-1 satellite into orbit aboard a Russian rocket last month marked the beginning of Iran's space program, and officials say a second satellite this one Iranian-built will be launched in about two months, heightening Israeli concerns.
The Sina-1's stated purpose is to take pictures of Iran and monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation. Sina-1, with a three-year lifetime, has a resolution precision is about 50 meters (yards).
But as it orbits the Earth some 14 times a day from an altitude around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), with controllers able to point its cameras as they wish, Sina-1 gives Iran a limited space reconnaissance capability over the entire Middle East, including Israel.
"Sina-1 is a research &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2001/07/14/10131.html' target=_blank>satellite. It's not possible to use it for military purposes," Deputy Telecom Minister Ahmad Talebzadeh who heads the space program said.
But he agreed that it could spy on Israel.
"Technically speaking, yes. It can monitor Israel," he told The Associated Press. "But we don't need to do it. You can buy satellite photos of Israeli streets from the market."
The Russian company Polyot built the 170-kilogram (375-pound) satellite for Iran. But Iran has already developed the necessary infrastructure for its space program. The program represents Iran's drive to prove it can produce advanced technology on its own.