04/24/2007, 00.00
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India places Italian satellite in orbit

by Nirmala Carvalho
As the country launches its first commercial space mission, it prepares to compete with the United States, Russia and China in the commercial launch market. Its first mission to the moon is scheduled for next year.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s space agency yesterday placed an Italian satellite in orbit in its first commercial space mission, bolstering the South Asian nation’s space programme.

The Indian-made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV-C8 took off from the Sriharikota spaceport, 80 kilometres from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It carried the Italian astronomic satellite AGILE and an Indian advanced avionics module into a 550-kilometer (325 miles) circular orbit at a cost of US$ 16.3 million, several million below the international benchmark.

The system is at its 11th launch (altogether eight Indian remote sensing satellites, a radio satellite, a meteorological satellite called Kalpana-1, a recoverable space capsule SRE, and six small satellites for foreign customers) but it is its first commercial mission. It allows India to join France, Russia, the US, China and Japan in the commercial launch market.

India's advantages are the proximity of its space centre to the equator, a higher payload, and a relatively well-proven launch vehicle, in operation since 1994, with nine consecutive successful flights so far.

It’s a historic moment for the entire space community: an Italian satellite being placed in precise orbit by a totally Indian-built vehicle,” Indian Space Research Organisation chief G. Madhavan Nair said on state-run TV.

“I’m really proud to be here today,’ Giovanni Bignani, the head of the Italian space agency, said on Indian television. “This marks a new era of cooperation between Italy and India,” he added, while praising the professionalism of Indian space scientists, and “we have proven the reliability of the PSLV, its cost-effectiveness and given on-time delivery.”

For the launch, the Italian space agency paid ‘only’ US$ 11 million.

India started its space programme in 1963, and carried out its first successful launch of a domestic satellite in 1980.

India’s space programme, which is designed to reduce the country’s dependence on others, is expected to launch its first spacecraft mission to moon next year.

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