India launches first telescopes into space

  • 29/09/2015

India has successfully launched its first high-tech telescopes into space to study the stars, as New Delhi seeks to take another major step in its ambitious and low-cost space program.

A rocket carrying the 150-tonne mini space observatory called Astrosat, along with six foreign satellites, blasted off on schedule from India's main southern spaceport of Sriharikota.

"About 20 minutes after a perfect lift off ... from our spaceport, the rocket has placed Astrosat in the intended orbit," mission director B. Jayakumar said at Sriharikota, about 90km from Chennai.

The launch comes one year after India became the first Asian country to launch a successful mission to Mars to study the Red Planet, beating giant rival China and sparking an outpouring of national pride.

The unmanned probe, still orbiting Mars, cost a fraction of the missions launched earlier by the United States, Russia and Europe.

India's Astrosat, which includes a telescope that uses x-ray, is expected to orbit 650km above the Earth and will send back data and study parts of the universe including black holes and the magnetic fields of stars.

Astrosat, which reportedly cost 1.8 billion rupees ($A38.43 million) to build, has been compared by local media to the famous Hubble telescope launched by NASA in 1990. But Astrosat is much smaller and has a limited life span of five years.

The rocket also carries six foreign satellites, including the first from the United States.