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Iran sent a capsule carrying animals into space this week, the latest feat by the country’s space program as the government prepares for human missions despite criticism from Western governments, Al Jazeera reported.

State media released a video Wednesday of an Iranian-made Salman rocket carrying the capsule, which they said was successfully sent about 80 miles into orbit.

The rocket carried a capsule weighing more than 1,000 pounds, believed to be the heaviest biological capsule ever successfully carried in the history of the Iranian space program. However, government officials did not specify which animals were inside.

Since the mid-2000s, Iran has been working on launching animals into space and successfully sent its first creatures into orbit in 2010. Three years later, the Islamic Republic said it sent two monkeys into space and brought them back.

The Iranian Space Agency announced Wednesday that the government of President Ebrahim Raisi has “effectively revived” the country’s plans to send humans into space.

Raisi’s predecessor, former centrist President Hassan Rouhani, had received criticism for gutting the country’s space program – it included the development of long-range ballistic missiles – in favor of engagement with the West to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

That deal has fallen into limbo since 2018 when the Trump administration at the time withdrew from the agreement and imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Since then, Tehran has conducted a series of space launches, including military ones.

In September, Iran launched a data-collecting satellite into space and announced plans for new launches in the coming months.

The United States and its allies have harbored suspicions about Iran’s space program, as the same rocket technology involved can also be utilized for the development of long-range missiles, Sky News added.

The US contends that Iran’s satellite launches violate a United Nations Security Council resolution and has urged Tehran to refrain from any activity associated with ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied the accusations, maintaining that its space and nuclear programs are peaceful.

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