Millions of illiterate people in remote, rural India could soon have access to an education, as a satellite devoted exclusively to long distance learning was launched on Monday. It is the world’s first dedicated educational satellite, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

India launched the $20 million, 2-tonne EDUSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal. The satellite is the heaviest ever launched by an Indian-made rocket – the new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which cost $33 million.



About 35% of the country’s billion-plus population are illiterate, a 2001 government census showed. “India will require 10,000 new schools each year and meeting the teaching needs on such a scale by conventional methods will be impossible,” Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO, told New Scientist.



To date, India has used both of its multi-purpose INSAT satellites to provide long-distance education information alongside their telecommunications, broadcasting and weather-forecasting functions.



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