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India fires mega – rocket

India Monday successfully launched its most powerful home-produced rocket, another milestone for its indigenous space programmed which one day hopes to put a human into orbit.

The 43-meter (140-foot) rocket hurtled into a clear sky at 5:28 pm (1158 GMT) from the southern island of Sriharikota, one of two sites used by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to launch satellites. Scientists hugged each other and cheered as the 640-ton rocket lifted off.

“The GSLV – MKIII D1/GSAT-19 mission takes India closer to the next generation launch vehicle and satellite capability,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on his Twitter account.

“The nation is proud!”

The rocket boasts a powerful engine that has been developed in India over many years. Programmed managers hope to reduce reliance on European engines that have propelled some of India’s spacecraft in the past.

The GSLV Mk III rocket carried a satellite weighing more than three tons into a high orbit above Earth, a landmark achievement as India had struggled to match the heavier payloads of other space giants.

“They just launched the most powerful engine in India. It is a cryogenic engine, which took them 20 years to develop.

Some engineers have spent their life working on this,” said Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France’s space agency CNES.

The launch is another feather in the cap for scientists at ISRO, who won Asia’s race to Mars in 2014 when an Indian spacecraft reached the Red Planet on a shoestring budget.

That feat burnished India’s reputation as a reliable low-cost option for space exploration, with its $73 million price tag drastically undercutting NASA’s Maven Mars $671-million mission.

ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus.