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India plans to launch three satellites next year

India plans to launch three satellites next year to boost the country’s telecommunications business and improve rural education. India will in early 2004 launch the GSAT-3 satellite which will bring educational programs to isolated schools, said P.S. Goel, director of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s satellite center in the southern town of Hassan. He said India will also put into orbit the satellite IRSP-5, which will use 2.5 millimeter cameras for cartography.

“There is no equivalent of such a satellite in the world,” Goel told reporters.

Late next year the space program will launch a new communications satellite, INSAT4-A, which will allow more media firms to broadcast directly to homes.

“The satellite will cover the entire Indian region and there will be additional transponders for Indian companies. It will be the most powerful satellite in India,” Goel said.

India’s latest satellite, INSAT3-E, was launched over the weekend in French Guiana through a European mission to the moon. The satellite is expected to reach its final orbit October 10 and be fully operational by the end of the month. The launch cost 6.2 billion rupeesmillion dollars).

“It will really enchance the communication capacity by about one-third as 36 more transponders have been added with this launch,” said Madhavan Nair, chief of India’s space agency.

“The demand for transponders for communication is growing by about 10 percent every year,” Nair said.

Of the 135 transponders India now has in space, 11 are leased to the US-based firm Intelsat, bringing in 10 million dollars for the five-year period, Nair said.

Another 24 of the transponders are used by India’s state-run television, with the rest mostly leased by private operators. Nair also said that three countries, which he did not name, had approached India about the possibility of designing and building satellites and launch vehicles. India has been eyeing the lucrative launch market. In September, the cabinet approved an ambitious plan to send an unmanned mission to the moon by 2008, budgeting 83 million dollars for the project.