Hailing the successful launch of IRNSS-1A satellite, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday described it as an “important milestone in the development of India’s space programme”.

He congratulated the scientists responsible for the successful launch of the satellite.

“India’s space programme is playing an increasingly important role in socio-economic development of the country,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Joining a select group of nations, India entered a new era in space applications with its first dedicated navigation satellite being successfully put into orbit by its polar rocket PSLV that will give the country an alternative to US’ GPS.

In a midnight launch, India’s workhorse 44-metres tall Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) blasted off in a perfect text book launch at 11.41 pm last night carrying the indigenous IRNSS-1A from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

The IRNSS-1A satellite is the first in a series which will give India its own space-based navigation system.

Consisting of a space segment and a ground segment, IRNSS has three satellites in geostationary orbit and four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and is to be completed before 2015.