New Delhi – The Indian Space Research Organization on Sept. 9 successfully lofted its historic Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, putting two foreign satellites into orbit.

The fully-indigenous PSLV-C21 vehicle, which weighs 230-tons and stands 44 meters (144 ft.) tall, blasted off from the Satish Dhawan space center at Sriharikota in south India at 9:53 a.m. on Sunday morning, an ISRO official said.

The launch, initially scheduled for 9:51 a.m., was delayed for 2 min. as scientists waited for space debris to clear out, the official said.

Nearly 18 min. after blastoff, the launch vehicle injected the first satellite, France’s 800-kg (1,800-lb.) SPOT-6 remote-sensing satellite, built by Astrium Services, into an orbit of 655 km (407 mi.). That was followed by a 15-kg Japanese microsatellite called Proiteres (Project of OIT Electric Rocket Engine onboard small Spaceship). Proiteres is a technology demonstrator for Earth observation carrying a high-resolution camera developed by a team of students and faculty at the Osaka Institute of Technology ( OIT ).

The successful launch of SPOT-6 makes the PSLV rocket a strong contender to carry SPOT-7, which is being planned by Astrium in the near future, says ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan.

“ India’s space expeditions are for the betterment of society, not to compete with other countries,” he says.

SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 would form a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites designed to provide continuity of high-resolution, wide-swath data up to 2023.

SPOT 6 is a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite. Like its twin SPOT 7, which is slated for launch in early 2014, SPOT 6 will cover a 60-km wide swath and produce imagery products with a resolution down to 1.5 meters. SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 would ensure service continuity from the SPOT 4 and SPOT 5 satellites, which have been operating since 1998 and 2002 respectively.

Spot 6 and Spot 7 cost about 300 million euros ($375 million), Astrium said.

Both satellites have drawn on technological and operational innovations conceived for the Pléiades constellation. Pleiades, like Spot 6 and Spot 7, operates in a 700-km orbit , and is capable of detecting images as small as 50 centimeters in diameter in its highest-resolution mode.

The mission will bring ISRO’s total tally of foreign satellites launched to 29.