The rocket’s cargo included the country’s own advanced earth observation satellite as well as other, smaller ones launched for a total of eight countries around the world. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C43 (PSLV-C43) rocket blasted off from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh carrying the Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) with high resolution, digital-imaging equipment to map the earth, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. Satellites from Australia, Colombia, Malaysia and Spain were also carried for the first time by an Indian rocket, the state-run ISRO said on its website.
The latest launch is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s ambition to project India as a global low-cost provider of services in space.
It comes nearly two weeks after GSAT-29, India’s heaviest satellite, was sent into space.
Just over three-quarters of the satellites launched on Thursday were US contracts agreed with Antrix Corporation Ltd, the commercial arm of ISRO.
India’s information and broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Rathore tweeted: “The highlight of this launch, HysIS, will be India’s first hyperspectral imaging satellite! A big victory for Indian science and tech.”
Images sent by HysIS, which has a mission life of five years, will be used in the agriculture and forestry sectors, and help detect industrial pollution.
India’s burgeoning space sector is likely to make it a direct rival of Britain in years to come, given that 25 percent of the world’s telecommunications satellites are currently built here.
In addition, the country is planning pioneering missions to Mars and the Moon.
Speaking last week, a Department for Foreign Aid and International Development confirmed a package totalling close to £100m is paid to India annually.
He added: “Our aid commitment increases Britain’s global influence and, alongside our world class defence and diplomacy, helps the UK to create opportunity, peace and prosperity.
“DFID ended traditional aid to India in 2015.
“The UK now provides world-leading expertise and private investment to boost prosperity, create jobs and open up markets – which is firmly in our interests.
“This will help lift people out of poverty and strengthen the UK-India partnership – which is increasingly important as the UK leaves the EU.
“We are driving value for money in aid. Helping the world’s poorest while furthering UK strategic interests will only be achieved by spending 0.7 percent well.”
UKIP MEP Margot Parker was sceptical, telling Express.co.uk last week: “It’s fantastic to see the economic and social progress of India but at the same time this negates the reason for the UK to continue sending the country foreign aid.
“The only thing that now needs to be sent into outer space is Britain’s office for foreign aid. Instead, we need to start spending this money on needy people at home.
“There are many homeless and sick people in Britain who could benefit by putting our money in the right place.
“This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayers’ money.”