Iran said Monday it had launched a live monkey into space and called the mission a steppingstone to sending humans.

There was no independent confirmation of the launch, which was reported by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has sent a monkey into space aboard an indigenous bio-capsule as a prelude to sending humans into space,” IRNA posted on its website.

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Reuters, citing an IRNA report, said the capsule reached an altitude of 75 miles, or 120 kilometers, and then “returned its shipment intact.”

“The Islamic Republic’s state-run English-language Press TV said the monkey was retrieved alive,” Reuters reports.

Iran launched its first satellite into orbit in 2009.  That was followed in 2010 with the suborbital launch of a capsule containing a rodent, two turtles and worms. It reportedly attempted to launch a monkey in September 2011, but the mission failed.

Iran’s rocket launch capabilities have raised concerns in the United States that the technology could be used to develop long-range missiles, which could potentially be armed with nuclear weapons.

Iran says its space program is for peaceful purposes.

Image: Screenshot form Iran state TV of the Kavoshgar rocket that apparently launched a monkey on Monday. via BBC News