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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK

World: South Asia

India enters space market

[ image: India's PSLV rocket will launch the satellites (Indian Space Research Organisation picture)]
India's PSLV rocket will launch the satellites (Indian Space Research Organisation picture)
India has announced that it intends to compete in the global satellite launch market, which is currently dominated by Europea, Russia and the US.

The state-owned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it will launch three satellites - from India, South Korea and Germany - aboard a single rocket from a facility in southern India next month.

It will be the first time an Indian rocket has placed other countries' satellites in Earth orbit, although the main mission of the launch will be to put an Indian remote sensing satellite into orbit with the other two riding piggyback.

Space milestone

The organisation's spokesman, K. Kasturirangan said the launch would be a "milestone for India" signifying the country's entry into a market "monopolised by a handful of nations."

The annual worth of the international satellite launch market is thought to be worth around $2.5bn.

The government is now keen to make its space expertise and indigenous research pay its own way and gain a share of that market.

Communications deal

[ image: Europe's Ariane rocket dominates the market alongside Russian and American systems]
Europe's Ariane rocket dominates the market alongside Russian and American systems
In a further development of India's commercial operations in space, the Bangalore-based ISRO says it has also begun leasing transponder space on its most advanced communications satellite to private clients.

The satellite, launched by the European Space Agency's Ariane rocket earlier this month, will be partially leased to the international communications company, Intelsat.

"This also marks a milestone as Intelsat is the first foreign buyer of Indian satellite transponders," Mr Kasturirangan said.

The ISRO expects other commercial agreements to lease transponder space on the new satellite from customers in India and Russia.

India has had a relatively advanced space programme for many years, concentrating mainly on satellites for communications and surveillance.

BBC Delhi Correspondent Daniel Lak says these new developments will boost morale among India's space scientists after several setbacks in recent years, including the abondonment in 1997 of a newly-launched but malfunctioning communications satellite.

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