Iran has unveiled the next stage of its space programme, saying it is going to send a monkey into space next month.

Five monkeys were undergoing tests before one was to be selected for the flight on board a Kavoshgar-5 rocket, the head of Iran's space agency was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Monday.

The announcement comes after Iranian state television showed footage of a missile training exercise conducted by the country's Revolutionary Guards.

A spokesman said the war games tested long, medium and short-range missile capability on ground and sea targets.

Iran says it has a wide range of missiles, some capable of striking Israel and US bases in the region.

'Unsung heroes'

Animals have a long history of space travel.

In 1948, NASA began putting monkeys aboard its rockets. Most of them died and are still considered the unsung heroes of the space race.

Farouk Baz, a director of space research at Boston University, told Al Jazeera that Iran's announcement was intended to showcase Iran's homegrown space industry.

"This is now all homemade. However, many of the Iranians have been studying abroad, the same way the Indians and the Chinese did. They had people working in the laboratories in the US and all over Europe.

"Most of these people get good degrees, work very hard and as soon as they are ready they go home, and they are treated like heroes and given funds to further their research."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said last August that Iran planned to send a man into space by 2017.

Last week, Iran launched its second domestically built satellite into orbit, the Rasad 1 (Observation), which it said was for transmitting images and weather forecasts.

Western countries are concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be used to launch atomic warheads.

Tehran denies such suggestions and says its nuclear work is purely for peaceful use.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies