India's space agency launched a high-tech mapping satellite on Thursday that could track every house and street in the sprawling nation of over a billion people, state television said.
The CARTOSAT-1, carried by an indigenous rocket, signals an advanced effort by India to get into the lucrative business of satellite launch services and using space technology for rural and urban development.
State-run Doordarshan television reported that the rocket carrying the 1.5 ton (3,300 lbs) satellite blasted off at 10:14 a.m. (0444 GMT) from the spaceport village of Sriharikota, some 100 km (62 miles) north of southern Madras city on the Bay of Bengal coast.
A version of the launch rocket, called the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), will also be used in India's first mission to the moon expected in 2007 or 2008. CARTOSAT-1, which is intended to reach an orbit of 618 km (384 miles) above earth, represents the highest payload carried so far by the PSLV.
The satellite mounted with two cameras for "stereographic" imaging can take photos of cars on the ground, though not their number plates. It can capture visual features down to 2.5 meters (8 ft 2 inches) across, officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
India, which has launched 10 remote sensing satellites since 1988 in addition to several broadcast satellites, aims to use CARTOSAT-1 to help urban and rural planning, land and water management, relief operations and environmental assessments.