, TEHRAN, Mar 17 – Iran has launched a rocket into space carrying a test capsule designed to house an animal, the official IRNA news agency said Thursday, amid Western concerns over Tehran\’s scientific advances.
The Kavoshgar-4 rocket was launched without fanfare on March 15, the report said, citing the president\’s office.
The capsule, unveiled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on February 7, is designed to carry a monkey but there were no living creatures on board, IRNA added.
"This important scientific experiment was carried out on Esfand 24 (March 15) by the Iranian Space Agency," IRNA said.
Iran had announced it would conduct the launch before the end of Iranian year on March 21.
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, according to IRNA.
Iran, which has outlined an ambitious space programme in the face of Western concerns, put a satellite into orbit in 2009 and sent small animals into space in 2010.
Western powers fear that Tehran could develop a missile capability, masked behind a science programme, that could deliver nuclear warheads. Iran denies that its nuclear and space work have military dimensions.
Ahmadinejad announced in February during celebrations marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution that the capsule would be tested before carrying a monkey into space.
The Kavoshgar-4, also unveiled in February, has been touted as capable of carrying a payload to an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 miles).
IRNA confirmed Thursday that tests of data and imagery transmission were conducted at this altitude.