Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 11:08 UK

India in multi-satellite launch


The rocket blasts into orbit

India has successfully launched 10 satellites in a single mission, boosting its capabilities in space.

The rocket was carrying an Indian remote-sensing satellite and nine smaller ones, eight of them foreign.

The launch, from the Sriharikota space centre off India's east coast, is being described as a milestone for the country's 45-year-old space programme.

Observers say it is a sign that India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market.

'Historic moment'

"The mission was perfect," said G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

"It is a historic moment for us because it is the first time that we have launched 10 satellites in a single mission."

Last year, Russia launched a rocket carrying 16 satellites - but with a smaller payload, the Press Trust of India reported.

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which carried the satellites
India's space programme is more than 45 years old

Monday's lift-off from Sriharikota, near the southern city of Madras (Chennai), took place in clear weather and left behind a trail of orange and white smoke as scientists at mission control cheered.

The event was carried live on state television.

The satellites put into orbit include Cartosat2A - a remote-sensing satellite fitted with a high-resolution camera which will supply data for maps precise enough to detail every house in the country.

Officials plan to use the information to manage infrastructure and natural resources.

Also on board the rocket were an Indian mini satellite to gather technological data which will be available for sale, and eight tiny research satellites belonging to research facilities in Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

The satellites were deployed in orbit within moments of each other and the entire operation lasted 20 minutes.

Indian space aims

Experts have described Monday's launch as a rare feat for India's space programme.

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

Last year, India put an Italian satellite into orbit for a fee of $11m. In January, India successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says India is developing its rocket-launching capabilities to reduce its dependence on foreign space agencies, as well as to corner a share of the world's lucrative satellite-launching market.

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