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A number of nations have developed rocket and space programmes from the 1960's to the 1980's. These programmes were on a smaller scale than the U.S. and Soviet programmes. Nevertheless, they have made important contributions to the exploration of space.

European nations. Several European nations built boosters to launch small scientific research satellites. In 1965, France became the first European nation to launch a satellite. The United Kingdom sent another satellite into orbit in 1971. 

In 1975, the European Space Agency (ESA) was organized. Its 14 Western European member nations combine their financial and scientific resources in the development of spacecraft, instruments, and experiments. ESA supervised the construction of Spacelab, launched the space probe Giotto toward Halley's Comet, and built the Ulysses solar probe. ESA also developed the Ariane booster rocket to launch communications satellites for paying customers. ESA spacecraft lift off from Kourou in French Guiana, on the northern coast of South America. See EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY. 

Besides its activities as a member of the European Space Agency, Germany independently built two solar probes called Helios. One probe was launched in 1974, and another was launched in 1976. These probes flew within 45 million kilometres of the sun--closer than any other probe had reached. 

On May 18, 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space. She took part in a Russian mission. On May 24, 1992, Michael Foale became the first British-born man in space, flying aboard the U.S. space shuttle.

Japan became the fourth nation in space when it launched a satellite in February 1970. The nation's space programme blossomed in the 1980's. In 1985, Japan fired two probes toward Halley's Comet. Two separate programmes developed a family of small, efficient space boosters. The H-1 rocket, a medium-sized booster with liquid hydrogen fuel, also became operational. In 1990, Japan launched a lunar probe. 

In 1994, Japan launched its first heavy-lifting booster, the H-2. In 1996, an H-2 lofted the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite. The satellite began to gather data on the earth's lands, seas, and atmosphere. 

Japan sends small scientific research satellites into orbit from Kagoshima Space Centre on the island of Kyushu. Rockets carrying larger satellites take off from Tanegashima Space Centre on Tanega Island, about 95 kilometres to the south. Japan is developing a laboratory module for the planned international space station Alpha.

China. In April 1970, China sent its first satellite into space aboard a CZ-1 launcher. In the 1980's, China developed impressive space technology that included liquid-hydrogen engines, powerful Long March rockets, and recoverable satellites. China has three satellite launch sites--Jiuquan, Taiyuan, and Xichang.

India first launched a satellite into orbit in July 1980. The Indian Space Research Organization builds boosters. India launches rockets from the island of Sriharikota, off its eastern coast.

Canada has an active space research programme and a communications satellite programme. It took part in the U.S. space shuttle programme by designing and building the shuttle's robot arm. Canada is building a larger robot arm for the space station Alpha.

Other nations. Israel sent its first satellite into orbit in 1988. Australia has launched modified U.S. rockets from Woomera, in central Australia. Italy has launched U.S. rockets from the San Marco platform in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Kenya. Several countries, including Brazil, Sweden, and South Africa, have sent scientific sounding rockets into space.