Iran sends space capsule carrying animals into orbit

World

Iran said it has sent a capsule into space carrying animals as it prepares for human missions in the coming years.

The capsule was launched 80 miles into orbit, according to a report by the official IRNA news agency that quoted telecommunications minister Isa Zarepour.

He said the launch of the 1,000lb (450kg) capsule formed part of its future plans to also send Iranian astronauts to space by 2029.

He did not say what kind of animals were in the capsule.

State TV showed footage of a rocket named Salman carrying the capsule into the sky. The launch location was not disclosed.

Iran has from time to time announced successful launches of satellites and other spacecraft.

It has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the last decade, and in 2013 it launched a monkey into space.

In September this year, it said it sent a data-collecting satellite into space.

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The US and other Western countries have long been suspicious of the programme because the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.

The US has alleged Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

In 2018, former American president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers – drawn up to ensure Iran’s nuclear programme was “exclusively peaceful” – and restored crippling sanctions.

Efforts to revive the agreement faltered more than a year ago and since then the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons grade levels to build “several” nuclear weapons should it choose to do so.

Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its space activities and nuclear programme – which has steadily advanced over the years – are purely for civilian purposes and scientific research.

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