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India launches Israeli satellite: official
BANGALORE, India, Jan 21 (AFP) Jan 21, 2008
India successfully placed an Israeli spy satellite into orbit Monday, space agency officials said after a launch carried out under a veil of secrecy.

The launch of the Tecsar satellite by an Indian-made rocket was carried out in clear weather at 9:15 am local time (0345 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station in southern India, the Indian Space Research Organisation said.

The 300-kilogramme (650-pound) satellite, sometimes referred to as the Polaris, was steered into its orbit about 20 minutes later, said Antrix Corporation, the marketing arm of the Bangalore-based space agency.

"Antrix is happy to announce that its second full-fledged commercial launch has been successfully completed," said Executive Director K.R. Sridhara Murthi in a statement in this southern Indian city.

The satellite was designed, developed and fabricated by MBT Space, a division of the Israeli Aerospace industries. It is equipped with a camera that can see through clouds and carry out day and night all-weather imaging.

The mission was executed under a commercial contract between Israel Aerospace Industries and Antrix, Murthi said.

The "copybook" launch by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the workhorse of the Indian space programme, had been kept secret because of its "geopolitical sensitivity," NDTV television network reported.

Tecsar is reported to be Israel's most advanced satellite, and its launch is a boost to its intelligence gathering capabilities.

Israel took the decision to launch it from India three years ago. It hired India because it lacks a vehicle capable of boosting the satellite into a polar orbit, according to defence analysts.

The launch is another important step in the commercialisation of India's 45-year-old space programme, which put an Italian satellite into orbit in April last year for a fee of 11 million dollars.

India wants to compete alongside the United States, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in offering commercial satellite launch services.

Paris-based market research firm Euroconsult estimates the launch market will grow to 145 billion dollars over the next 10 years, from 116 billion dollars in 1997-2006, as space-faring nations launch more satellites and deep-space probes.

India started its space programme in 1963, and has since developed and put its own satellites into space. It has also designed and built launch rockets to reduce its dependence on overseas space agencies.

It carried out the first successful launch of a domestic satellite, which weighed 35 kilograms, by an Indian-built rocket in 1980.

Monday's mission was the eleventh consecutive successful launch carried out by the Polar Satelite Launch Vehicle, which is also slated to launch India's first spacecraft to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, later this year.

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