India’s domestically-produced Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has blasted off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota, carrying satellites from France, Germany, Canada and Singapore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed India’s low-cost space technology on Monday, saying a rocket which launched five foreign satellites into orbit had cost less to make than the Hollywood film “Gravity,” which had a budget of about $100m.
“I have heard about the film Gravity. I am told the cost of sending an Indian rocket to space is less than the money invested in making the Hollywood movie,” said Modi who was inaugurated as prime minister last month after a landslide victory.
Former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), G Madhavan Nair, said it was a great feat and it would tighten India’s grip on space commerce.
The PSLV launch bolsters South Asian country’s goal of capturing more of the $304bn annual global space market. The ISRO has so far launched 35 satellites of foreign countries.
The ISRO has worked to keep import costs low by designing most of the parts for its programme that are then outsourced to the domestic private sector.
Modi said the country must be proud of its space programme, developed in the face of “great international pressure and hurdles”.
Western sanctions on India after the nation staged a nuclear weapons test in 1974 gave a major thrust to the space programme because New Delhi needed to develop its own missile technology.
Praising the achievements in space technology, the Indian prime minister said the country’s scientists have made the country a global leader.
“India’s space programme is a perfect example of scale, speed and skill. Our space scientists have made us global leaders in one of the most complex areas of modern technology.”
Last year, India launched a bid to become the first Asian nation to reach Mars with a mission whose price tag was the envy of space programmes worldwide.
The total cost at $73m was less than a sixth of the $455m earmarked for a Mars probe launched shortly afterwards by US space agency NASA.