Iran today claimed to have successfully launched its first home-made satellite into orbit, using an indigenous Safir rocket. Iranian President Mohammad Ahmadinejad made the announcement on state television.
A Safir 2 space rocket launched the Omid (Hope) satellite into orbit, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, media reports said.
''With this launch, the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially achieved a presence in space,'' president Ahmadinejad claimed on state television.
The news, however, has not been corroborated by satellite tracking stations outside of Iran.
Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking in Addis Ababa, said the satellite would enable Tehran to receive environmental data while state news agency IRNA said the satellite would take orbital measurements and would circle the earth 15 times every day.
Experts say the Safir 2 is a version of Iran's Shahab 3 ballistic missile, which forms the basis of Iran's weapons programme.
Tehran, however, uses different names for its missiles, including Ghadr 1, Ashoura and Sejjil.
The Safir 2 is a two/ three-stage rocket, which is 72ft long and weighs more than 26 tonnes, uses liquid propulsion. The Shahab 3 is a one-stage liquid-propulsion missile.
Iran claims to have developed a ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km, although there is no evidence to back this claim. Russia, however, said Iran has built a missile with a range of 1,500 km, capable of reaching Israel.
In October 2005, Iran put into orbit a Russia-made satellite named Sina 1 into orbit using a Russian rocket. Last year, Iran sent a probe called Kavoshgar (Explorer) into space on the back of a rocket, which Tehran said was in preparation for a satellite launch.
Reza Taghipour, head of the Iranian space agency, said Iran would launch another satellite on 20 March.
Iran's first two attempts - in February and August last year - to launch an indigenous satellite were not successful and the West considers it as part of Iran's long-term ballistic missile programme.
Even if the Iranian president's claim turns out to be true, the West would consider it only as further proof of Tehran's growing ability to master the technology for developing a long-range ballistic missile.
Experts see an undeniable link between the rocket launch and Iran's military programme even though Ahmadinejad insists that the satellite mission was purely for peaceful purposes.
The announcement comes a day before the Britain, the US, Russia, China, France and Germany are due to meet near Frankfurt to review Iran's continuing uranium-enrichment programme.