Ahmadinejad also unveiled the model of a light booster rocket that is being built and three new, Iranian-built satellites, touted as the latest in the country’s ambitious space program.
A U.S. defense expert said the choice of animals served no purpose but that the launch meant to boost the nation’s confidence and underlined the closeness of its space and military programs.
The Iranian space program has worried Western powers, which fear the same technology used to launch satellites and research capsules could also be used to build long-range intercontinental missiles and deliver warheads.
The launch of the rocket Kavoshgar-3, which means Explorer-3 in Farsi, was announced by Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi to mark the National Day of Space Technology. It comes a year after Iran sent its first domestically made telecommunications satellite, called Omid, or Hope, into orbit for 40 days.
Iran’s state TV broadcast images Wednesday of officials putting a mouse, two turtles and about a dozen creatures that looked like worms inside a capsule in the rocket, which appeared to be about 10 feet long, before it blast off.
Vahidi gave no details on the research and there was no information on what experiment the animals would serve on board. The report also did not disclose when or where the launch took place.
Kavosghar-3 is the third in a series bearing the same name. Iran reported launching Kavoshgar-1, or Explorer-1, in Feb. 2008. The first section of the rocket detached after 90 seconds and returned to earth with the help of a parachute. A second segment entered space for about five minutes, while the final section was sent toward orbit to collect data.
Later in 2008, a rocket entitled Kavoshgar-2, made it…