Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran plans to launch satellites into orbit early in the new year, its defense minister told the semi-official Fars news agency Wednesday.
"This satellite, which was built by Iranian scientists, is a big step for the continued presence of Iran in space and for taking advantage of the opportunities offered in this field," Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said.
The launches of the Tolou satellites -- which means "sunrise" in Farsi -- are scheduled to take place in February and March, according to Fars.
The U.S. State Department expressed "grave concern" over the launch.
"Developing a space launch vehicle that could ... put a satellite into orbit could possibly lead to development of a ballistic missile system," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters. "So that's of grave concern to us."
The Pentagon called the February launch "clearly a concern of ours."
"Although this appears to be satellite, there are dual-use capabilities that could be applied to missiles, and that's a concern to us and everybody in region," Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said at the time.
For Iran, the planned launches are an important step for its military.
"Using these modern technologies, Iran's armed forces are capable of catching the enemies off guard, identifying their software and hardware potential and depriving the enemy of movement and maneuverability," Vahidi told Fars.
The development comes as the international community considers additional sanctions against Iran should Tehran not answer questions about its nuclear program. Western powers fear Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.