Iran says it launched a satellite last night as part of what officials there described as the country’s bid to develop a space program.

The satellite, named Omid, or “hope,” was “successfully sent into orbit” with a Safir 2 (or "ambassador") rocket, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency. The “data-processing” satellite project began nearly four years ago “as the first practical step toward acquiring national space technology,” says another IRNA report, noting that “its main objective is to prepare the grounds for promoting [a] national space industry in Iran.”

French officials confirmed that a launch took place, the Associated Press reports. The rocket was apparently fired in two stages, according to The New York Times: The first involved a Shahab, a standard rocket in Iran’s arsenal. The second stage was liquid fueled, and there may have been a small, solid-fuel third stage.

Iran test-fired a Safir 2 rocket in August that had satellite-carrying capabilities and a range of 155 miles. The government there has said that it wants to send satellites into space to monitor national security as well as natural hazards, such as the devastating 2003 earthquake in Bam that killed more than 26,000 people and injured 30,000, and for national security. Iranian authorities say the Omid will circle Earth 15 times over a 24-hour period, AP says.

The U.S. and other countries are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. (It is reportedly developing enriched uranium, which it says is for electricity but critics warn is intended for weapons and to set off long-range ballistic missiles.) Weapons experts note that the technology required for launching rockets can also be used to set off weapons. 

For more on nuclear power, check out our In-Depth Report.

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