India successfully launches three satellites into space

image captionThe take-off went smoothly with no complications

India has successfully launched a rocket into space carrying three satellites, officials say.

The trouble-free launch was in contrast to a major setback in December when a satellite launch vehicle blew up and fell into the Bay of Bengal.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) had a smooth lift-off and deployed the satellites in orbit around 820km (500 miles) above Earth.

Staff at the launch pad in Andhra Pradesh cheered as the rocket took off.

The main satellite in the launch from the Sriharikota space centre was the remote-sensing Resourcesat-2, which will study the impact of humans on the earth's natural resources.

The rocket also carried a joint Indian and Russian satellite for stellar and atmospheric studies as well as an imaging orbiter built by the Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University.

Correspondents say the jubilation among technicians and scientists which greeted Wednesday's launch was starkly in contrast to events in December - when a satellite launch vehicle blew up and fell into the Bay of Bengal live on television after it veered from its intended flight path.

It was the second consecutive failure to launch the rocket, which had been carrying a communications satellite.

Lunar return

India is hoping to send its first manned flight into space in 2016 and first made a bid for a share of the lucrative commercial satellite-launch market by sending up an Italian orbiter in 2007.

image captionScientists at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre celebrated the successful launch

The country sees its space exploration programme as an achievement that emphasises its emergence as a major world economy, and correspondents say that many Indians take patriotic pride in its development.

Delhi and Beijing's Moon missions have gained fresh impetus since last year's Nasa budget cuts, which dashed US hopes of a lunar return by 2020 - more than half a century after the Americans' first visit.

India has been playing catch-up on China in the race, a less shrill replay of the one between America and the USSR in the 1960s.

It became the fourth country to plant its colours on the Moon - after America, Russia and Japan - thanks to the success of its Chandrayaan (Sanskrit for "moon craft") probe.

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