Iran launched its first home-made satellite into orbit on Tuesday, state television reported, displaying progress in space technology at a time of persistent international tension over its nuclear program.
The Omid (Hope) satellite, sent into space as Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution this month, was designed for research and telecommunications, said the television, which carried footage of the launch.
The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used for launching weapons, although Iran says it has no plans to do so.
“In another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions, Iran launched its first home-made Hope satellite into orbit,” said the television.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the television as saying in a message: “Iran’s presence in space with the aim of expanding monotheism, peace and justice has now been officially recorded in history.”
The Omid was designed for gathering information and testing equipment and was carrying experimental satellite control devices and power supply systems, the television said.
Iran is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions because the United States and other Western powers suspect Tehran is amassing the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
The Islamic state, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity to meet the demands of its economy and enable it to export more of its crude and gas.
Iran caused international concern in February last year by testing a domestically made rocket as part of its satellite program. Tehran said it needed two more similar tests before putting a satellite into orbit.
The United States, which has been spearheading a drive to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear plans, called the February rocket test “unfortunate.”
In August, Iran said it had put a dummy satellite into orbit with a domestically made rocket for the first time. U.S. officials said the launch had ended in failure.
New U.S. President Barack Obama has said he sees Iran as a threat but is also offering direct dialogue with its leaders.
Ahmadinejad has set tough terms for any talks with Obama’s administration, saying it must change policy not just tactics toward Tehran and apologize for past “crimes” against Iran.
Western experts say Iran rarely gives enough details for them to determine the extent of its technological advances, and that much Iranian technology consists of modifications of equipment supplied by China, North Korea and others.
The television broadcast said the Omid would return to earth after orbiting for one to three months, with data that would help experts send an “operational satellite” into space.
Iran already had a satellite in orbit but the Sina-1 was launched by a Russian rocket in 2005, said the television.
(Editing by Ralph Gowling)