India launches 20 satellites in its biggest mission

India's space agency launched 20 satellites including 17 foreign payloads on Wednesday, setting a new record for the country's space programme.

The Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) took off from Sriharikota spaceport in southern India at around 9:30 am (0400 GMT) and placed the satellites in their prescribed orbits 26 minutes later.

"20 satellites in a go! ISRO continues to break new barriers," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said congratulating the Indian scientists.

"Our space programme has time and again shown the transformative potential of science and technology in people’s lives," he added.

The main passenger on the rocket was India's earth observation satellite Cartosat-2, which can take images at sub-metre resolution and weighs 727.5 kilograms.

Seventeen small satellites including 13 from the United States, two from Canada, and one each from Germany and Indonesia were also injected in low-earth orbit.

Two satellites from Indian universities were also among the passengers. The US payloads included an earth-imaging satellite made by Terra Bella, a Google-owned company.

In 2008, India launched 10 satellites in one rocket, setting a world record that was broken several times in subsequent years.

Nasa in 2013 placed 29 satellites on a single mission, while Russia did 37 satellites in one launch in 2014.

India has joined the relatively few players in the multi-billion-dollar space launch market some four decades after it launched its first satellite, Aryabhatta, in 1975.

The 20 satellites launched Wednesday weighed 1,288 kilogrammes and cost about half of what is incurred by other space agencies, the broadcaster NDTV reported.

ISRO scientists called the launch a milestone in the country’s ambitious space programme. In the past few years, India has notched significant achievements in space, including sending probes to the moon and to Mars.

Last update: Wed, 22/06/2016 - 12:09

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