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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK

World: South Asia

Lift-off for Indian space rocket

The rocket carried three satellites

India has successfully launched its first commercial rocket.

The unmanned rocket carried into orbit three satellites - one Indian, one German and one South Korean - from the southern island of Sriharikota in the Bay of Bengal.

Indian space officials were delighted with the launch
The launch marks India's entry into the lucrative satellite delivery business. A number of nations around the world are now developing low-cost systems that are taking business from the more established players in the market.

India's new commercial rocket service could attract millions of dollars to the Indian economy. The chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), K Kasturirangan, said its launch charges could be about 25% cheaper than other countries such as the US, Russia and China.

'Textbook launch'

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C2 blasted off from Sriharikota at 1152 local time (0622 GMT) in what Indian space officials described as a "perfect, textbook launch."

[ image: India's PSLV rocket]
India's PSLV rocket
The satellites sent into polar synchronous orbits were the 45-kilogram (99-pound) German DLR-Tubsat, the 107-kilogram (235-pound) South Korean Kitsat-3 and the Indian Oceansat which will be used for maritime research sensing.

The PSLV can carry a 1.2-tonne payload. The Indians are currently developing a much bigger vehicle, the Geo-stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which will be able to take much larger payloads into space, such as communication and broadcasting satellites.

However, space officials complain that the development of their rocket programme has been delayed by US sanctions imposed on India after its nuclear tests last year. Washington refuses to supply technologies that could also have military uses.

Indian pride

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee witnessed the lift-off of PSLV rocket. He described it as a proud moment for the country.

"It renewed my confidence in the strength and capability of our people," he said after the satellites were successfully delivered into the right orbit 720km (445 miles) above the Earth.

"For the first time a Korean and a German satellite have been put into orbit on an Indian launch vehicle," he said.

"The benefits from this exploration belong to the entire mankind. It is our determination to make India a space power in the next century. In future, many more foreign satellites can be launched."

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