Iran reports launch of small satellite into orbit
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran successfully launched a new small satellite into orbit early Friday, state media reported, the latest in the country's ambitious space program that has raised concerns because if its possible military applications.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called in to the launch site, saying he was "hopeful this act will send a signal of more friendship among all human beings," the state IRNA news agency reported.
IRNA said the home-made satellite, Navid, or Gospel, was designed to collect data on weather conditions and monitor for natural disasters.
It said the satellite weighs about 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and would orbit the earth at an altitude of up to 234 miles (375 kilometers), circling the planet 15 times a day. It's of a type known as miniaturized or microsatellites, which are cheaper to produce and allow for less costly launch vehicles.
Navid, produced at an Iranian engineering university, is the third small satellite that Iran launched over the past years and is expected to remain in orbit for about two months. The two earlier satellites — Omid, launched in 2009, and Rasad, sent into orbit in June 2011 — lasted three weeks and 82 days, respectively. IRNA said Navid has advanced control technology, a higher resolution camera and photocells to generate power.
The satellite was sent into orbit by a missile launch-vehicle dubbed Safir, or Ambassador in Farsi, which IRNA described as having 20 percent more launch power, compared to earlier versions of satellite carrier missiles.
An Iranian website, Irannuc.ir, claimed Safir was a ballistic missile that can be converted into an intercontinental missile. State TV showed footage of the launch, with a rocket sent off and turning into a light point in the darkness of the skies.
Iran's decade-old space program has raised alarms in the West, because the same technology that allows missiles to launch satellites can be used to fire warheads.