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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
India commercial rocket takes off
Monday's launch of PSLV rocket
The rocket took off under a clear blue sky

India's first commercial rocket has been launched into space.

The rocket, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), took off from the Sriharikota base in southern India at 1530 Indian time (1000 GMT).

It is carrying a 352kg Italian satellite which will gather information about the origins of the universe, the AFP news agency reports.

India's space programme includes an unmanned mission to the Moon which is due to take place next year.

'Twenty-three minutes'

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that scientists at India's space centre broke out into spontaneous applause as the rocket lifted off into a clear blue sky.

He says that India has been working for some time on developing a low-cost launch system which could take on more established players around the world.

Reports say that India is being paid $11m to launch the Italian satellite.

The rocket was due to send the satellite into orbit 23 minutes after takeoff.

The PSLV model rocket was first launched in 1994. It puts satellites into orbits where they cross above the earth's poles.

At present, the PSLV rocket only has the capability of carrying relatively lighter loads of under 1,500 kilograms.

But officials at India's space programme are hoping that can change with time.

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