India’s space programme reached another milestone on Sunday morning as the first homemade satellite built for a foreign customer zoomed into the orbit from a launchpad in French Guiana. About two months after the successful launch of the nation’s maiden moon mission with six foreign payloads on board, W2M, a 3,463-kg satellite said to be Isro’s heaviest, took off at 4.05 am (IST) from the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana. An advanced version of the hi-tech Ariane 5 ECA rocket carried the European Satellite Telecommunication Organization’s (Eutelsat) machine along with a second satellite, Hot Bird. Isro chairman Madhavan Nair witnessed the launch at Kourou, and the clear visibility provided a view of the rocket’s thunderous ascent through scattered clouds followed by the separation of its two solid boosters two minutes 20 seconds into the flight at an altitude of 64 km. W2M separated 32 minutes after liftoff. With its 15-year longevity, the main role of W2M will be TV transmission, radio broadcasting, data network feeds and broadband access for Eutelsat. It will operate up to 30 transponders and cover Europe, North Africa, Middle East and some islands in the Indian Ocean.Isro chief spokesperson S Satish said that the mission signified a major landmark for Antrix corporation, Isro’s commercial arm. “With this successful launch, we are now confident of entering the commercial satellite market in a big way. It will also give confidence to foreign customers to build their satellites in India because of Isro’s proven technological capability,’’ he said.Post-launch, Isro has a three-phased participation in the W2M programme. It has to start with early phase operations that include three-axis stabilisation of the satellite and repeated firing of its liquid apogee motor to take it to the final orbit. In the second phase, Isro will handle all the in-orbit operations of the satellite and last, it will deal with the end-of-operation phase. “We will be carrying out the operations of the satellite for quite sometime and the radio signals transmitted by W2M were successfully received by Isro’s master control facility at Hassan in Karnataka,’’ Satish said. At Kourou, Nair said W2M was like the Insat-4 series of communication satellites. “This is the first time we have built a satellite for a foreign customer,’’ he stated. Isro officials have been quoted saying the satellite was built under an 80 million dollar contract by the space agency. Though exact figures are unavailable, the deal is expected to fetch Isro a profit of Rs 200 crore.