TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Iran has successfully sent its first domestically made satellite into orbit, state radio reported Tuesday, another development in the country’s ambitious space program that has worried many international observers.
The satellite called Omid, or hope in Farsi, was launched late Monday after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave the order to proceed, according to the radio report. State television also showed footage of what it said was the satellite blasting off in the darkness from an unidentified location in Iran.
The reports could not be independently verified by outside observers. Some western observers have accused Tehran of exaggerating its space program.
Iran has long held the goal of developing a space program, generating unease among world leaders already concerned about its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. One of the worries associated with Iran’s fledgling space program is that the same technology used to put satellites into space can also be used to deliver warheads.
The satellite was taken into orbit by a Safir-2, or ambassador-2 rocket, which was first tested in August and has a range of 155 miles (250 kilometers).
Despite the anxiety by the U.S. and its allies over Iran’s space program, it is not exactly clear how developed it is.
In 2005, Iran launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow, which appears to be the main partner in transferring space technology to Iran. Also in 2005, the government said it had allocated $500 million for space projects in the next five years.
Iranian officials first started developing the satellite, which weighs 27 kilograms (60 pounds), in 2006.
Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. Iranian officials also point to America’s use of satellites to monitor Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar abilities for their security.
Iran hopes to launch three more satellites by 2010, the government has said.
The radio says the satellite launched Monday is designed to circle the earth 15 times during a 24-hour period and send reports to the space center in Iran. It has two frequency bands and eight antennas for transmitting data.