India launches 20 satellites in single mission

image copyrightEPA
image captionThe rocket carrying 20 satellites was launched from the Sriharikota space centre

India has successfully launched 20 satellites in a single mission, the most in the history of the country's ambitious space programme.

They include satellites belonging to the United States, Canada, Germany and Indonesia.

The launch took place from the Sriharikota space centre off India's east coast.

Observers say it is a sign that India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market.

The record for the most number of satellites launched in a single mission belongs to Russia, which sent up 37 satellites in 2014. The US space agency Nasa launched 29.

As Indian scientists and government ministers kept a close watch, the rocket carrying 20 satellites blasted off from the launch facility in Andhra Pradesh state.

The payload included devices ranging in weight from more than 700kg to as little as 1.5kg.

They include an Indian cartographic satellite as well as those belonging to the country's universities and international customers - 13 satellites are from the US, including one made by a Google-owned company.

'Wonderful life'

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says it is a significant moment for India's space programme which has recorded a number of achievements including sending probes to the Moon and Mars.

Launching several satellites in a single mission reduces cost and India has been positioning itself as a key player in the lucrative international commercial space market as an effective but low cost operator, our correspondent says.

image copyrightISRO
image captionThe payload included devices ranging in weight from more than 700kg to as little as 1.5kg

The chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), Kiran Kumar, told the NDTV news channel that launching 20 satellites in a single mission was like "allowing birds to fly in space".

"Each of these small objects that you are putting into space will carry out their own activity, which is independent of the other, and each of them will live a wonderful life for the finite period for which they have been designed," he said, ahead of the launch.

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