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India Launches 7 Satellites


India has launched seven satellites from a single rocket, demonstrating its growing skills in multi-satellite launches. The success comes nearly a month after India had to end its inaugural Moon mission early.

Within a space of 20 minutes, an Indian rocket placed one big satellite and six small ones into space from the Sriharikota space center in eastern India.

The big remote-sensing satellite will map fishing zones around India, measure ocean surfaces and wind speeds and track monsoons and cyclones.

The six small satellites belong to other countries - four to Germany, one to Switzerland and one to Turkey.

Last year, India put 10 satellites in space in a single launch.

The head of the Indian Space Research organization, G. Madhavan Nair, says the latest launches have reaffirmed India's capabilities in successfully putting satellites in space.

"It is a fantastic achievement," he said. "I think we have once again proven that we can do the job precisely."

In the past decade, India's 46-year space program has focused on developing rocket-launching capabilities to gain a slice of the multi-billion-dollar space-launch market. It has put an Italian satellite and an Israeli spy satellite into orbit. But India is still a relative newcomer in a field dominated by big players such as the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.

Wednesday's satellite launch also brings a lift to the country's space scientists, who were disappointed last month when the country's first mission to the Moon had to be terminated after contact with the unmanned spacecraft was lost.

That mission was undertaken to map the Moon's surface and search for water. Scientists say the mission was a success, and has yielded very useful data, despite its termination, a year ahead of schedule.

In recent years, India has scaled up its ambitions to explore space, not wanting to be left behind by countries like China. It hopes to send a manned mission into space, in four years time.

India's space program functions on a relatively modest budget of about $1 billion a year.

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