India for the first time will launch a foreign satellite, an Italian one, as a primary payload on a home-grown rocket, as space scientists prepare to further demonstrate the country's cost-effective launch services capability.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched foreign payloads as piggybacks in the past; next month's mission would see the space agency launching the 360-kg AGILE spacecraft as a primary payload.
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse rocket of Bangalore-headquartered ISRO, would blast-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota with AGILE and India's Advanced Avionics Module (AAM) as secondary payload.
The launch is scheduled between April 20-30.
"It will send a right message to global community. This contract (to launch AGILE) was obtained against competition, and once we are able to launch it on time and at a good price, I think this (foreign payload launches) will start coming more and more to us", ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair told the agency.
AGILE is a space scientific mission devoted to gamma-ray astrophysics supported by the Italian Space Agency, with the scientific and programmatic co-participation of the Italian Institute of Astrophysics and the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics.
The 180-kg AAM is aimed at testing some of the advanced avionic package for use in the future PSLV flights, the space agency said.
Officials said PSLV configuration for next month's flight would be modified to use only the core vehicle (without the six solid propellant strap-on motors).