While experts fear progress in Iran’s ballistic missile program, Iranian media is claiming the Islamic Republic has successfully launched a space rocket containing a live monkey into sub-orbital space.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the monkey was launched in a Kavoshgar rocket and reached a height of more than 75 miles.
The Kavoshgar (explorer) rocket is related to the Safir (ambassador) rocket, which was Iran’s first successful space launch vehicle in 2009. According to Globalsecurity.org, both rockets belong to the Shahab rocket family, a medium range rocket based off of North Korea’s No-dong missile.
In a press statement, Iran’s defense ministry bragged that the launch was “another giant step” for their space program.
According to the U.S. Institute of Peace, Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. Many western analysts believe that Iran’s space program is a cover for its ballistic missile program.
Missile expert Bruno Gruselle of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research told Reuters that if the report is true, the launch would be a significant step for Iran.
“If you can show that you are able to protect a vehicle of this sort from re-entry, then you can probably protect a military warhead and make it survive the high temperatures and high pressures of re-entering,” Gruselle said.
Reuters said it has been unable to independently confirm the rocket launch.