"In another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions, Iran launched its first home-made Hope satellite into orbit," Iranian state television said Tuesday of the launch of the satellite Omid (Hope). Iran is subject to United Nations sanctions because of its nuclear program. The U.N. and Western powers believe the country is trying to build a nuclear bomb, which Iran has denied.
The launch comes at a time of ongoing international tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions, and may spark new worries among U.S. and other leaders who believe the same satellite launch technology could be used to launch long-range weapons.
Iranian state television said that the satellite was designed for research and telecommunications uses, and officials stressed that the projects' goals were peaceful: "Iran's satellite technology is for purely peaceful purposes and to meet the needs of the country," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said from the African Union Summit in Ethiopia, according to Reuters.
State television said the satellite would orbit for one to three months, and then return to earth.
Iran first test-launched a rocket aimed at putting a satellite into space last February. In August, Iranian officials said they had launched a dummy satellite into space, but U.S. officials disputed the claim and said the test had failed.
The launch comes one day before senior diplomats from the U.S., Russia, Britain France, Germany and China are to meet in Frankfurt to discuss Iran. It also comes at a time when the world is waiting to see how President Barack Obama's administration will deal with Iran. President Obama has said he sees Iran as a threat but wants direct talks between the two countries.
Last week, Iranian foreign minister Mottaki said at the World Economic Forum that Tehran stands ready to work with the new administration to improve relations with Washington, according to CNN.com.