India successfully launched a communications satellite into space aboard the most powerful rocket in the country's arsenal: the 640-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mk-III), Reuters reported on Monday.
The rocket helped propel a three-tonne GSAT-19 satellite into orbit, the country's largest to date. The success of GSLV Mk-III demonstrates India's emergence as a global power in space research and exploration, joining the United States, Russia, China, and Japan.
After a 25-year journey to develop its own cryogenic engine—a necessary technology required to support heavier satellites like the GSAT-19—India now has a completely indigenous space program, D.P. Karnik, a spokesperson for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), told CNN.
Developing India's space program has been a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In February of 2017, ISRO launched a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit at once, mostly for foreign customers. Owing to low labor costs and government support, India has been able to put satellites into space at a cost that is 60 to 70 percent lower than that of competing countries.
In 2014, while test-flying the GSLV Mk-III, scientists also tested an unmanned crew module attached to the rocket. With ISRO already planning to push a two- to three-member crew into space as soon as it gets government clearance, Monday's launch is a strong step toward a manned Indian space mission in the near future.