BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Venezuela's first satellite roared into space Thursday from a launching pad in southwest China.
The telecommunications satellite will let rural communities in Venezuela access educational and medical information that has been difficult for them to come by as a result of their relative isolation, said Rodolfo Navaro, technical manager for the Bolivarian Space Activity Agency.
"It is not focused on commercial ends, but on providing a service to the communities which have never enjoyed a modern communication system," he said, according to the Bolivarian News Agency.
"Aboriginal communities, for instance, would receive long-distance education, or maybe they would request medicines, air or river ambulance service, medical checkups, among other options."
A Chinese rocket carrying the satellite lifted off early Thursday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province, according to an account in China's state-run news agency, Xinhua.
The satellite is designed to last 15 years, the agency said.
President Hugo Chavez announced after taking office that Venezuela would send crafts into space, and the country spent $241 million in five years to develop the Simon Bolivar Satellite, named for the general whose military victories led to independence from Spain for several South American nations in the early 1800s.
Chavez referred to the satellite's launch as a key step toward greater scientific and technological independence for Venezuela, the Bolivarian News Agency reported.
The satellite will have the ability to cover the Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America, the agency said.
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