In a move which has raised international concerns, Iran has successfully launched a new rocket capable of sending satellites and carrying living creatures into space.
As Reuters is reporting, the new Kavoshgar-4 rocket was launched Tuesday, equipped with a capsule capable of containing living organisms, ahead of an eventual manned space mission. The "life capsule," unveiled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in February, is designed to carry large animals including monkeys. However, it remained empty during this week's test launch, when it reached an orbit of 75 miles, the Associated Press is reporting.
"This important scientific experiment was carried out on Esfand 24 [March 15] by the Iranian Space Agency," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) is quoted as saying by the AFP. The space agency managed to "test the system performance... the launch platform, engine, electronic and telemetry systems and the system of separation" between the rocket and its load.
Though Tehran officials have denied that their nuclear and space work has military dimensions, Iran's ambitious space program has sparked the ire of Western authorities, who fear the new technology could bolster surveillance efforts and the development of long-range missiles, reports GlobalPost. Last year's successful launch of the Kavoshgar-4, which carried a rodent, two turtles and some worms into orbit, was slammed by the White House as "a provocative act," according to CNN. Other nations, including France, are reportedly concerned.