India successfully launches satellites in single mission into space

India successfully launched seven satellites in a single mission into space, notching up another success for the country's ambitious space programme, which includes an unmanned mission to Mars latter this year.

The 44.4-metre tall Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket carrying the seven satellites took off in a plume of smoke at around 6 pm India time from the space centre in the southern Andhra Pradesh state.

Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, who was watching from a visitors enclosure along with French officials, congratuled the scientists following the successful launch

"I am delighted to witness the remarkable launch," said Mr Mukherjee.

India's space programme dates back to the early sixties when it first started building its own rockets and satellites to cut dependence on supplies from other countries.

It has since emerged as a major player in the multi-billion-dollar space market, sending over 50 satellites into space earning Rs 10 billion (S$228 million) in 2010-2011 up from Rs 8.8 billion the year before. In 2011 Singapore’s first locally-built satellite was launched by India.

India's space programme have also had some setbacks. In 2010, a communication satellite exploded mid-air and another one failed to launch.

Monday's launch was the first major one this year and comes after last year's launch of a spy satellite and its most potent missile yet, the Agni V, with a range of 5000 km, putting India in an elite group of seven countries with such capabilities