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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Delhi
"India could itself join the elite club of commercial satellite launchers"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Indian rocket blasts off
GSLV launch 18 April 2001
The successful launch is important for India
India has successfully launched a new rocket which is carrying an experimental satellite into orbit.

Scientists cheered as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, India's most powerful rocket (GSLV), blasted off on schedule at 1543 local time (1013GMT) from the Sriharikota base, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Space powers
United States
Russia
European Union
China
"It was the longest 17 minutes in our life. It was also the most exciting and wonderful 17 minutes in our life," India's space agency chief, Dr K Kasturirangan, said after the launch.

Millions of television viewers saw a first attempt last month fail as flames licked one side of the rocket because of a faulty booster engine.

Soon after Wednesday's success, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appeared on national television to congratulate the scientists.

"Today is a proud day for India. The entire nation is thrilled by the successful launch.

"As the GSLV blazes its way into the sky, it writes a shining new chapter in the history of India's space endeavours," Mr Vajpayee said.

Big league

The success of the launch is an important step towards India joining the big league of space powers.

If the rest of the operation proves successful, India could start making a considerable income from commercial satellite launches.

Rocket AFP
The first attempt last month failed
This market is currently shared by the US, Russia, China and the EU with its European Space Agency.

India's GSLV is aiming to put a 1.5 tonne experimental satellite into geosynchronous orbit, which means it should go round the Earth at the same rate as the planet turns, so the satellite is always over the same point on the Earth's surface.

To do so, the satellite needs to reach a very high orbit of 36,000 km from the Earth.

The GSLV project, the most technologically demanding undertaken by India's space agency, has cost more than $300m so far and taken 10 years to develop.

But the BBC's correspondent in Delhi, Mike Wooldridge, says the potential benefits are considerable, both from not having to depend on the European Space Agency and the income from potential clients.

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See also:

18 Apr 01 | South Asia
India joins space elite
17 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
India prepares for space launch
28 Mar 01 | South Asia
Indian satellite launch fails
31 May 99 | South Asia
Lift-off for Indian space rocket
28 Apr 99 | South Asia
India enters space market
06 Nov 00 | South Asia
India ditches key satellite
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