Iran is planning to launch a monkey into space sometime after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends on Saturday, August 18, according to the Tehran Times.
Despite Iran's dire economic situation, largely due to the international sanctions placed on the nation, its space exploration program has made large strides since 2009. To date, it has launched three satellites, the third being launched as recently as February 3 of this year, and sent smaller animals into space, including a rate, turtle, and earthworms.
Following Ramadan, a live rhesus monkey will be placed into a biological capsule designed to keep the creature alive. The capsule will be placed on Iran's 661 pound Kavoshgar (Explorer)-5 rocket.
The Iran Space Agency (ISA) first announced plans to send a "large animal" into space back in March of this year, but was forced to delay the project in order to conduct more tests. Last year, the ISA's attempt to launch a live monkey into space failed.
At some point between August 23 and September 22 of last year, an Iranian Kavoshgar-5 rocket carrying a monkey was launched. The launch was not publicized until October, when the agency acknowledged the failed project after rumors began to circulate. The ISA believes that sending a live primate into space will allow them to better understand the conditions in space, hopefully leading to a manned space mission at some point in the next few years.
The ISA has also announced that it will be launching a fourth satellite into space within the next few months. The solar-powered "Fajr" (Dawn) will be used for reconnaissance.
According to RT, an English-language Russian news channel, "Western countries expressed concern that the launch technology will be used to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads." The ISA, however, has completely denied those charges, maintaining that its programs are not being designed for military use.
In some ways, Iran's space missions are creating somewhat of a second space race. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union fought to be the first superpower in space. The idea being that space could eventually be weaponized by the dominating power. With Iran's hostile relationship with the Western, the nation's scientific advancements are sure to be causing military leaders some anxiety. While Iran is far from the capability of weaponizing space, its launch of a new reconnaissance satellite at least prove its ability to spy. Now, the West is using economic sanctions against Iran and foreign banks that do business with Iran as a means to slow the nation's scientific and technological progress.