India’s space agency successfully orbited the Resourcesat-2 advanced Earth-observation satellite and a couple of nano-satellites onWednesday April 20, following two consecutive launch failures last year.

In its first launchmission of 2011, the Indian Space Research Organization’s indigenous, 900 million rupee ($20 million) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C16, made a picture-perfect liftoff at 10:12 a.m. local time from the Satish Dhawan Space Center launch pad in Sriharikota, about90 km (56 mi.) from the southern Indian city of Chennai. It was the 18th launch for the PSLV.

Along with the 1,206-kg (2,660-lb.) advanced remote-sensing satellite, the PSLV also injected into polar Sun-synchronous orbit the 92-kg Indo-Russian Youthsat for stellar and atmospheric studies, and the 106-kg X-Sat imaging satellite built by Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.

Apart from three sophisticated cameras, Resourcesat-2 also carries the AIS (Automatic Information System) sensor from ComdevCom Dev Canada for ship surveillance.

“[The] PSLV-C16 Resourcesat-2 mission is successful,” Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan announced shortly after all thethree satellites were deployed 822 km above the Earth. This was the fourth launch since Radhakrishnan took over as chief of the space agency in 2009.

The launch of Resourcesat-2 was postponed twice. It was originally scheduled for January, then  delayed to February and finally to April.

“With the launch of Resourcesat-2, ISRO will have 10 remote-sensing satellites in orbit — Resourcesat-1, TES, Cartosat 1, 2, 2A and 2B, IMS-1, Risat-2, Oceansat-2,” says S. Satish, spokesman for the Bengaluru-based ISRO.

The 1.4 billion-rupee Resourcesat-2 is built to last about five years. It will augment ISRO’s remote-sensing data services, replacing the Resourcesat-1 spacecraft sent up in 2003.

PSLV is a four-stage rocket, with the first and third stages fueled by solid propellant and the second and fourth stages by liquid fuel.

With the launch of these satellites, ISRO is trying to wipe out the memory of back-to-back failures of its Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The GSLV-D3 mission carrying the GSAT-4 communications satellite failed in April 2010; then in December another GSLV veered off course less than a minute after liftoff, resulting in the destruction of the GSAT-5P satellite.

Satish says ISRO is planning to launch two communication satellites — GSAT-8 onboard an Ariane rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, and GSAT-12 from India — by June to serve the needs of the telecommunication and television sectors. This would be followed by the launch of the Megha-Tropiques satellite, another GSAT and the Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1).

With the largest civilian remote-sensing satellite constellation in the world, India is a global leader in space, earning a sizable amount selling imagery in a variety of spatial resolutions, spectral bands and swath sizes.

Meanwhile, the space center’s remote-sensing constellation has come under criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). In a recent report, the CAG says three of the country’s seven remote-sensing satellites have underperformed.

CAG says the satellites were launched without sufficient mission planning, leading to a lot of waste. The report criticizes the National Remote-Sensing Center (NRSC) for not making sufficient assessments of the data needed.

Media reports quoting the CAG say the auditors have recommended that NRSC should increase its prices and overcome its reluctance to sell archived data.

In addition to the seven Indian-made satellites, NRSC also relies on foreign satellites like the U.S. Landsat and European ERS systems.