TEHRAN, June 16 (UPI) -- Iran has launched a Rasad Safir rocket, which carried and placed the Rasad satellite into low Earth orbit.
The satellite was designed and built by Iran's IRI Aerospace Org.
The launch is Iran's second successful satellite, following the placement of the Omid -- "Hope" -- satellite into orbit in 2010. Rasad translates as "observation."
The Rasad satellite is relatively small, weighing 34 pounds, and was inserted into a 160-mile-high orbit, circling the Earth 15 times every 24 hours, Tehran Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 state-run national television reported Thursday.
The satellite is the first indigenous Iranian photographic imagery satellite in which all stages of design, fabrication, integration and testing and launch readiness were developed inside Iran.
Rasad's mission after establishing contact with ground stations is to obtain imagery and retransmit it along with telemetry data to four stations charged with tracking, guidance, control and reception and transmission of information to and from the satellite.
The satellite's subsystems include digital data managing capabilities, solar panels, control and optical systems, Global Positioning System and with on-board data transmitters and receivers as well as temperature control mechanisms.
In late 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tehran's intentions to send a home-made surveying satellite into space, telling journalists, "Iran's measurement satellite will be launched into space from an Iranian launch pad and will have an Iranian exchange station and control station."
Iranian Minister of Defense Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi noted that while the Rasad satellite was lightweight and classified as a "micro-satellite," it had many of the capabilities of larger satellites.
He said: "We succeeded, with Allah's help, in placing the Iranian satellite -- type Rasad -- into its orbit around the Earth, using the Safir rocket. This news brings joy to the hearts of those who believe in Iranian glory and who think about its progress."
Vahdidi said the satellite had been placed in orbit and, despite its size, "carries all the specifications of all large satellites."
"This satellite is capable of many tasks, including taking images, sending and receiving relevant signals," Vahidi said. "It is capable of controlling its position in space and operates by solar energy."
The news is certain to cause consternation in the United States and Israel, which have been pressing for sanctions on Iran over its civilian nuclear program, believing that it masks covert efforts to develop nuclear military weaponry, a charge that Iran strongly denies.
The placement of the Rasad satellite into orbit heightens fears about Iran's ballistic capability potentially being married to a nuclear weapon payload.