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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 09:40 GMT
India launches Israeli satellite
Tecsar satellite
Officials say the satellite has already begun transmitting
India has successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit, officials at the Sriharikota space station in southern India say.

The Israeli press is reporting that the satellite will improve Israel's ability to monitor Iran's military activities.

Indian officials that given these sensitivities, the operation was secret and carried out under tight security.

The Tecsar satellite - sometimes referred to as the Polaris - was put into space on Monday morning.

'Sinister tie-up'

Tecsar is said to have enhanced footage technology, which allows it to transmit images regardless of daytime and weather conditions.

It is considered to be one of the most advanced spy satellites that India has put into orbit to date.

Satellite dish in Andhra Pradesh
India is eager to compete in the world space technology market

Correspondents say the launch was the second commercial mission on behalf of another country that has been carried out by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

"It was a grand success," an unnamed official told the AFP news agency from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Israeli newspapers reported that both Israeli and Indian space engineers were at the launch, and that 80 minutes afterwards, the Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) ground station began receiving Tecsar's first signals.

The 300kg (650-pound) satellite is reported to be Israel's most advanced space craft, and equipped with a camera that can take pictures in almost any weather conditions.

Israel reportedly took the decision to launch the satellite from India three years ago, and asked for Delhi's help because it lacks a vehicle capable of boosting the satellite into a polar orbit.

"The kind of low-earth polar orbit they are putting the satellite into, it is meant to give Israel the capability to keep an eye on the Iranian nuclear programme," an unnamed defence analyst told the AFP news agency.

"This is bound to be seen in the Islamic world as a sinister tie-up between Israel and India," he said.

Experts also say that the launch is an "important milestone" in the commercialisation of India's 45-year-old space programme, which put an Italian satellite in orbit in April last year for a fee of $11m.

Correspondents say that India is eager to compete against the US, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in providing commercial satellite launch services, a market worth about $2.5bn a year.

India started its space programme in 1963, and has since designed, built and launched its own satellites into space.



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