NEW DELHI (AP) — India successfully launched its heaviest-ever rocket on Monday which it hopes will eventually be able to carry astronauts into space, a feat that only Russia, the United States and China have achieved, its space agency said.
The Indian Space Research Organization said the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III rocket lifted off from India's space launch center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh state in the country's southeast, and placed a communication satellite into orbit.
The space agency's director, A.S. Kiran Kumar, said it is the heaviest rocket and satellite to be launched from India. The rocket is powered by an indigenous engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel, he said.
In the past, India has used French rockets to launch its heavier communication satellites.
Indian space scientists worked "relentlessly for decades and for this project since 2002 to successfully put the satellite into orbit," Kumar said. "This is a historic day for ISRO."
India hopes the launch of the satellite, which weighs 3,136 kilograms (6,914 pounds), will expand its commercial launch business.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the scientists on Twitter.
"The GSLV - MKIII D1/GSAT-19 mission takes India closer to the next generation launch vehicle and satellite capability. The nation is proud!," Modi tweeted.
The launch is the latest in a string of successes for the Indian space agency. In February, it launched a record-breaking 104 nano satellites into orbit, all onboard a single rocket.
In November 2013, India launched a space probe that has been orbiting Mars since September 2014.
This story has been corrected to show that satellite, not rocket, weighs 3,136 kilograms.