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Small observation satellite launched from Iran

Posted: June 17, 2011

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Iran announced it launched its second homemade satellite into orbit aboard a Safir missile into orbit Wednesday, an achievement likely to draw the ire of Western governments as evidence Iran's long-range missile weapons capability is maturing.

The satellite, named Rasad, will take images of Earth and transmit them to ground stations, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Rasad, which means observation, weighed about 33.7 pounds when it blasted off on a Safir rocket, the state-run IRNA reported.

Official news reports did not disclose the launch time, but liftoff likely occurred around 0930 GMT (5:30 a.m. EDT) from a remote military base in northern Iran.

Iran says it will use the satellite to monitor the environment, but it could be a testbed for future military reconnaissance payloads. The country plans more advanced satellites for launch in the coming months and years, including a craft named Fajr featuring a more capable Earth observation camera.

Two objects from the launch, likely the Rasad satellite and part of its booster, are being tracked in orbit.

The Rasad satellite is circling Earth in an elliptical orbit with altitudes ranging between 150 miles and 180 miles. The orbit's inclination angle is 55.7 degrees, according to U.S. military tracking data.

Wednesday's launch follows the successful blastoff of Omid, Iran's first home-launched satellite, in February 2009. That mission was also propelled into orbit by a Safir rocket.

The Safir stretches 72 feet long and measures about 4.1 feet in diameter, according to official Iranian news reports. The rocket is likely an upgraded Shahab missile.

Iran says it will launch a space capsule with a monkey on a suborbital flight later this year. It sent smaller animals into space on a brief rocket flight in February.

The country's leadership also unveiled plans to develop a more capable rocket, build advanced satellites and launch an astronaut into space by 2024.