"The mission was perfect," said G Madhavan Nair, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Mr. Nair was celebrating the latest successful launch by India of a mission with 10 satellites from the Sriharikota space center off India's east coast.
This latest success by ISRO makes India a serious contender in the fast growing $2.5B commercial satellite launch business expected to grow rapidly over the next several years. The BBC is reporting that the rocket carried an Indian mini satellite to gather technological data which will be available for sale, and eight tiny research satellites belonging to research facilities in Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. India started its space program in 1963, and has since designed, built and launched its own satellites into space.
Last year, India put an Italian satellite into orbit for a fee of $11m. In January, India successfully launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit, according to the BBC.
Beyond the Indian commercial ambitions, this milestone for India represents a strategic capability as an emerging economic and military power on the world stage. This is also a great comeback for ISRO about two years after a launch in 2006 had to be destroyed less than a minute after lift off when it veered from its path.
Pakistan's SUPARCO, the equivalent of ISRO in India, has no launch capability of its own. It has relied on Chinese and Russian space agencies to launch its satellites Badr-1 and Badr-2. India's success in space is likely to be seen in Pakistan as a threat, or at least a challenge that they must respond to. Pakistan has a lot of catching up to do to try and reduce the gap between the space capabilities of the two nuclear-armed rivals in South Asia.
Just as Russia's Sputnik launch on October 4, 1957, spurred the Americans to respond with a comprehensive effort in space technology, the Indian success yesterday has the potential to serve as a wake-up call for Pakistanis to renew their efforts and focus on science and technology education, innovation and research to become competitive with India in space. Only time will tell if Pakistanis are really up to this challenge.