TEHRAN: Iran yesterday launched a rocket designed to send its first homemade research satellite into orbit, state television said.
The launch also marked the opening of its first space centre, located in the remote desert in the north.
Officials said the centre includes an underground control station and launchpad which will be used to launch Tehran's first satellite 'Omid' by March next year.
State television showed live images of the event from the space centre, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issuing the launch order in the latest step towards Iran's long-declared goal of developing a space programme.
"We witness today that Iran has taken its first step in space very firmly, precisely and wisely," Ahmadinejad said.
"The evil and dominant system's most important instrument is humiliating people and nations by making them think that they are incapable," he said.
TV footage showed the rocket soaring into the sky from a desert launch pad, leaving a vapour trail.
A parachute appeared to drop from the rocket shortly after the launch.
"The first Iranian rocket Explorer 1 was fired into space," the television reported, without specifying the exact altitude.
"With the launch, Iran has joined the world's top 11 countries possessing space technology to build satellites and launch rockets into space," it it said.
The US last night branded the launch "unfortunate" and warned that it would further isolate the Islamic republic from the international community.