“This shipment returned safely to Earth with the anticipated speed along with the live organism,” Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the semi-official Fars news agency. “The launch of Kavoshgar and its retrieval is the first step towards sending humans into space in the next phase.”
Iran’s English-language Press TV displayed photographs of the monkey inside its capsule, but did not say if these were from before or after the launch.
There was no independent confirmation of the launch.
The West worries that long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be put to delivering nuclear warheads.
Bruno Gruselle of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, said that if the monkey launch report were true it would suggest a “quite significant” engineering feat by 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.
The monkey launch would be similar to sending up a satellite weighing some 2,000 kg (4,400 pounds), he said. Success would suggest a capacity to deploy a surface-to-surface missile with a range of a few thousand kilometres (miles).
The Islamic Republic announced plans in 2011 to send a monkey into space, but that attempt was reported to have failed.