Iran announced today that it had fired a research rocket carrying several small animals into space, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Jan. 22).
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lauded the launch of the Kavoshgar 3 rocket, which was shown on official television taking flight after being loaded with two turtles, a mouse and several animals that appeared to be worms.
"The scientific arena is where we could defeat the (West's) domination," Ahmadinejad said, calling the launch a "very big event."
"This is the first presence of animals in space launched by Iran. It's the start of bigger achievements," he said (Associated Press/Washington Times, Feb. 3). Iran soon hopes to place astronauts in space, Reuters quoted him as saying (Hafezi/Derakhshi, Reuters, Feb. 3).
The Iranian president also revealed three new, domestically built satellites, dubbed Mesbah 2, Tolo and Navid-e-Elm-o-Sanat.
Iran's program for launching its own satellites has raised international concerns, as technology used to place orbiters into space can also be applied to ballistic missiles. The Middle Eastern state put its first indigenously produced satellite into orbit in February 2009 (Associated Press).
Still, one analyst said the launch was "not particularly more significant than the last one or the next one," Reuters reported.
"They contribute to Iran's ballistic missile capabilities, but do not foretell an ICBM capability or anything else capable of threatening Western Europe or the U.S. homeland," said Mark Fitzpatrick, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
"The more significant missile development is the testing of the solid-fueled Sajjil missile," he said.
Iran's ballistic missiles pose a growing threat to the United States and allied assets in the region, the U.S. Defense Department said in a report this week (Hafezi/Derakhshi, Reuters, Feb. 3).