India successfully launches cutting-edge cryogenic rocket

India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D5) blasts off carrying a 1980 kg communication satellite from Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai on January 5, 2014. --PHOTO: REUTERS
India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D5) blasts off carrying a 1980 kg communication satellite from Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai on January 5, 2014. --PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGALORE (AFP) - India on Sunday successfully launched its first rocket using domestically made booster technology, taking another step forward in its ambitious space programme.

The Indian-made cryogenically-powered rocket blasted off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota as scheduled, as Delhi tries to join an elite club of countries which have mastered the complex technology.

The 415-tonne rocket deployed a two-tonne advanced communications satellite 17 minutes after blast-off, said Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman Dr K. Radhakrishnan.

"I am extremely proud and happy to say that team Isro has done it," Dr Radhakrishnan announced at mission control in Andhra Pradesh state, sparking a roar of applause from colleagues. "Team Isro and the project directors all have put their heart and soul in making this proud moment for the country," he said.

India has for years been trying to develop its own cryogenic engine for rockets that are designed to put heavier satellites into high orbits, about 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) from Earth.

The powerful booster technology, using super-cooled liquid fuel, is a much needed tool to help India capture a share of the lucrative global market for launching commercial satellites.

But the technology has only successfully been developed by a handful of countries including the United States, Russia, France, Japan and China. 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the team on Sunday’s mission, which cost 3.65 billion rupees ($58 million) – 2.2 billion rupees for the rocket and 1.45 billion rupees (S$ 29 million) for the satellite. “It is yet another important step that the country has taken in the area of science and technology,” Singh said in a tweet.

India's project has had to overcome a string of hurdles and mishaps, including an aborted launch in August last year several hours before lift-off after fuel was found to be leaking from one of the rocket's engines.

The first India-built rocket crashed into the Bay of Bengal just minutes after take-off in April 2010 after the cryogenic engines failed to ignite.

In November India successfully lifted into orbit a spacecraft bound for Mars as it tries to become the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet.