Iran launches third satellite

Iran says it’s launched an observation satellite, claiming it will be used to collect weather data.

The country’s official news agency, IRNA, says that the satellite will be placed into orbit between 250 and 370km above the Earth. Weighing just 110 pounds, it will orbit for 18 months, circling the Earth 15 times a day.

Designed and built entirely in Iran, the Navid-e Elm and San’at – Promise of Science and Technology – satellite carries cameras and communications systems, along with solar cells to generate power.

It was launched on Friday, Space Technology Day, and the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

The launch comes at a time of high tension, with Israel pushing for pre-emptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. There’s concern, too, that the rockets used to place Iran’s satellites in orbit could be used to attack other countries.

The country’s also announced plans for a new satellite launch base to be built in the south-east of the country.

The satellite is Iran’s third to reach orbit; the other two were launched in February 2009 and July last year. An attempt last summer to place a monkey in orbit failed.

Iran says it plans to launch two more satellites in the coming weeks, and aims to put a man in space by 2020.

Not all of the country’s claims have been verified. In 2010, it claimed to have successfully launched a rocket carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms. And last year it released pictures of a ‘flying saucer‘ it claimed to have tested successfully.