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India launches largest rocket

India has announced two more successes in its quest to send humans into space, launching the country's largest rocket and testing the re-entry of a crew module.

The Indian Space and Research Organisation said the 630-ton rocket blasted off from the barrier island of Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The rocket was carrying an unmanned crew module and released it 78 miles above the Earth. The pod, meant for carrying two to three astronauts, splashed down in the Bay of Bengal.

In September, India joined an elite club when it successfully guided its Mars Orbiter Mission into orbit around the Red Planet, but experts say it will be several years before the country can send astronauts into space.

Indian Space and Research Organisation chairman K Radhakrishnan said the launch marked a "very significant day in India's space history".

India, which is striving to become a player in the multibillion-pound space market, has successfully launched lighter satellites in recent years, but has faced problems sending up heavier payloads.

Pallava Bagla, a space expert, said the newly developed rocket would double to 4 tons the capacity of what India can carry into space.

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