Iran launches observation satellite
Iran on Friday launched an observation satellite into orbit above Earth, its third since 2009, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"The Navid satellite was launched successfully.... It will be placed into an orbit (at an altitude) between 250 and 370 kilometres," IRNA quoted the head of Iran's Space Organisation, Hamid Fazeli, as saying.
The 50-kilogram (110-pound) satellite is meant to stay in orbit for 18 months, sending back images to Iran as it completes a revolution of Earth every 90 minutes. It was unveiled two years ago and its launch had long been expected.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led the launch ceremony, media said.
"It's the beginning of an immense labour... which holds the promise of friendship for all mankind," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
It was the third domestically made satellite Iran has put above the planet using its Safir rockets. The other two observation platforms, launched in February 2009 and July 2011, stayed in orbit for two to three months.
Iran's space programme deeply unsettles Western nations, which fear it could be used to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The Navid satellite launch comes as Iran is marking the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution -- and as tensions are heating up over Iran's nuclear programme.
There is increasing speculation that Israel is considering air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities -- an action that could possibly spark a broader conflict drawing in the United States.
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