India launches largest rocket and unmanned capsule

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Media captionFootage shows the launch of India's most powerful rocket

India has successfully launched its largest rocket and an unmanned capsule which could send astronauts into space.

The 630-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (MK III) blasted off from Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday morning.

The new rocket will be able to carry heavier satellites into space.

India has successfully launched lighter satellites in recent years, but has faced problems sending up heavier payloads.

The new rocket is capable of carrying communication satellites weighing 4,000kg, reports say, meaning India will not have to rely on foreign launchers to do so.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the launch: "Successful launch of GSLV MK-III is yet another triumph of brilliance & hard work of our scientists. Congrats to them for the efforts."

K Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organization (Isro), said the launch marked a "very significant day in India's space history".

The rocket's main cargo was an Indian-made capsule capable of carrying two to three astronauts into space.

Image copyright Isro
Image caption Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (MK III) is India's heaviest rocket

Isro said the capsule has "safely splashed down into Bay of Bengal off Andaman and Nicobar Islands" and that the experiment was successful.

Isro has sought funding from the government to send its astronauts into space and the successful launch could be the first step towards boosting its claim, correspondents say.

India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market and has undertaken several missions.

In September, it successfully put a satellite into orbit around Mars, becoming the fourth nation or geo-bloc to do so.

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