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Indian space scientists were celebrating yesterday after the successful launch of a new communications satellite, INSAT-4CR, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The satellite was originally to launch on Saturday, but bad weather meant officials had to delay proceedings for 24 hours. A technical hitch almost caused the launch to be scrapped again as the rocket's computers reported anomalous readings. However, engineers were able to get everything back in shape, and the launch was only delayed a further two hours.

The rocket, a 49 metre, three-stage vehicle with two liquid stages and a final cryogenic stage, carried the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Once there, its on board thrusters will fire to move it into its final orbit at 36,000km altitude. It will spend the next 11 years relaying direct to home (DTH) TV services that observers say will revolutionise the television industry in the country.

Another DTH TV satellite was scheduled for launch in July, but the launch was aborted half way through, when a faulty liquid propellant stage meant the rocket veered off course. That failure to launch meant India's digital TV rollout had to be delayed.

According to the Hindustan Times, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials were also mourning the loss of three colleagues in a car accident last week in the temple town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh.

The car was carrying two senior officials, Rajeev Lochan, scientific secretary, and S Krishnamurthy, director of publications and public relations. The driver was also an ISRO employee, named Chandran. He and Lochan died immediately, while Krishnamurthy passed away in hospital on Saturday. ®

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