Iran Launches Omid Satellite Into Orbit

Iran launched its firstsatellite into orbit Monday using a modified homemade long-range missile,thrusting the Islamic republic into an elite club of space-faring nations,state media reported.

The small Omidcommunications satellite was launched Monday evening aboard a Safir 2 rocket,the Fars news agency reported.

Two objects from thelaunch, likely the Omid satellite and part of its booster, are circling Earthin oval-shaped orbits.

The orbits range inaltitude from low points of 153 miles to high points of 235 miles and 273miles. The orbital inclination is 55.5 degrees, according to U.S. militarytracking data.

Iran joins a small group ofcountries with the ability to build and launchtheir own satellites into orbit.

The former Soviet Unionlaunched the world'sfirst artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957. The United Statesfollowed with the successful launch of Explorer 1 in January 1958.

France, Japan, China, theUnited Kingdom, India and Israel later developed and successfully flew theirown space launchers.

Iran is the first newspace-faring nation since Israel joined the club in 1988.

The launch was timed tooccur during a 10-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of Iran'sIslamic revolution, according to the Fars news agency.

Iranian President MahmoudAhmadinejad ordered Monday's launch and said the satellite was a "steptoward justice and peace," according to state television reports.

Iran constructed Omid andplanned the launch under strict U.N. economic sanctions due to internationalsuspicions of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The sanctions affect theinternational trade of goods that could be used on military projects, includingprograms related to satellite and rocket development.

Iran orbited its firstsatellite in 2005 on a Russian rocket, but Monday's launch was the country'sfirst to use a homemaderocket launched from Iranian territory.

Omid, which means hope inPersian, carries experimental control systems, communications equipment, and asmall remote sensing payload, Iranian news reports said.

Previous versions of theSafir rocket have completed several suborbital tests, including a mysteriousflight last August that some believe may have been a failed satellite launchattempt.

Iranian news reports inAugust reported the Safir had successfully reached orbit, but Westernintelligence officials said the rocket suffered a dramatic failure during thelaunch.

Iran plans several moresatellites over the next few years to bolster disaster management programs andstrengthen communications networks inside the country.

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Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at and on Twitter.