India's national space organisation has marked its 100th mission by successfully launching two new satellites which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lauded as a "spectacular success".

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) celebrated the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C21 on Sunday as it blasted into the sky carrying a French observation satellite and a Japanese microsatellite.

India has had an active space programme since the 1960s and has launched scores of satellites for itself and other countries.

Singh congratulated the team at the ISRO at Sriharikota hailing the achievement as "a milestone in our nation's space capabilities".

"India is justly proud of its space scientists, who have overcome immense odds to set up world class facilities and develop advanced technologies. We owe a great deal to pioneers like Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Prof Satish Dhawan," Singh said.

Future missions

India is one of the few developing countries with a space programme and the government has spent billions of dollars on the project.

"I would also like to congratulate European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) Astrium of France and Osaka Institute of Technology of Japan for the successful launch of their satellites," Singh said.

"The launch of these satellites on board an Indian launch vehicle is testimony to the commercial competitiveness of the Indian space industry and is a tribute to Indian innovation and ingenuity," the prime minister added.

India has recently announced plans to join a small group of nations already exploring Mars by sending a satellite via an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the planet.

A rocket will blast off from the south eastern coast of India, dropping the satellite into deep space, which will then travel to Mars to achieve orbit.

The nation's space exploration programme has come a long way from its humble beginnings. When it was first established resources were so scarce that some scientists had to operate out of a cow shed.

Four years ago, its Chandrayaan satellite found evidence of water on the moon and India is also looking at landing a wheeled rover on the Moon in 2014.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies