A screenshot of the Alalam network's coverage of Iran's space launch.
A screenshot of the Alalam network's coverage of Iran's space launch.
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Courtesy of NASA
Chimpanzee 'Ham' in space suit before a test flight in January 1961. Photo by Courtesy of NASA

Iran has successfully launched a live monkey into space, Iranian news agencies reported on Monday, lauding it as an advance in a missile and space program that has alarmed the West and Israel.

There was no independent confirmation of the report and there have been no announcements by Western powers of any Iranian launch late last week.

The Fars agency said the monkey was launched into space on a Kavoshgar rocket. The rocket reached a height of more than 120 kilometers and "returned its shipment intact," Fars reported.

The IRNA news agency quoted the Iranian defense ministry as saying launch coincided "with the days of" the Prophet Mohammad's birthday last week, but gave no date.

Iran test-fired the Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3), its first domestically made satellite carrying rocket, in 2010.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said then that Tehran hoped to send astronauts into space soon. Iran announced plans in 2011 to send a monkey into space, but that attempt was reported to have failed. In 2011, Iran also launched its second domestically built satellite into orbit, the Rasad 1 (Observation 1), which it said was for transmitting images and weather forecasts.

Western countries are concerned the long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be used to launch atomic warheads. Tehran denies such suggestions and says its nuclear work is purely peaceful.