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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Successful launch for Indian satellite
India's latest communications satellite, the Insat 3A, has been successfully launched into space.

The launch is a 'milestone' in India's satellite programme
The satellite was hurled into orbit by the European Ariane 5 rocket, 30 minutes after lift off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guyana.

The 2,950-kilogram satellite will be used for telecommunications, television broadcasting, meteorology and satellite-aided search and rescue services.

Indian scientists say the satellite is working smoothly. India has now awarded contracts to Ariane's operating company, Arianespace, to put two more satellites into orbit.

'Important step'

Professor Roddam Narsimha of the Indian Space Commission said the success was another milestone in India's satellite development programme.

And the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), K Kasturirangan, described the launch of the satellite as an important step in meeting the country's development needs in broadcasting and weather forecasting.

Ariane launch
This is Ariane's first mission since December
Its operation is controlled by scientists at the Master Control Facility at Hassan, about a 150 kilometres from Bangalore.

The launch was delayed following a technical snag on Wednesday and was finally launched at 0322, Indian time, on Thursday.

The life span of the satellite is 12 years.

Insat-3A is the third satellite in the Insat-3 series launched by Ariane rockets.

The Ariane 5 rocket sent two satellites towards geostationary orbits in its first mission since a heavy-lift version of the vehicle blew up in December.

In addition to the Insat 3A, PanAmSat's Galaxy XII will provide telecommunications links between continental USA, Alaska and Hawaii. It was released 40 minutes after blast-off.

The ISRO announced a contract with Arianespace to launch two more satellites immediately after the launch of Insat 3A.

"It is for the launch of telecommunication satellites Insat 4A and Insat 4B," S. Krishnamurthy of the ISRO told the AFP news agency.

"These two will be launched in the next two years."

The two new satellites will each weigh approximately about 3,200 kilograms, AFP reports.

'Worked hard'

BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos says the successful launch of the Ariane 5 rocket will come as a huge fillip to the operating company, Arianespace, and its European consortium members.

"Despite all the difficulties that we have had in this difficult period these last few months, everyone has worked extremely hard for this launch," said a delighted Jean-Yves Le Gall, director-general of Arianespace.

"We are able to ensure the continuation of our services. We are committed to giving our customers the services they need."

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