The French company Arianespace on Wednesday successfully fired into orbit Mexico's Bicentenario satellite, the first in the Mexsat system, according to images broadcast live by the Mexican government.

The satellite was launched into space from the Kourou space center in French Guiana at 6:50 p.m. (2150 GMT).

The Bicentenario satellite will be maneuvered into a stationary orbit some 36,000 kilometers (about 22,000 miles) above the Earth and will be used to handle civilian transmissions by the Mexican government.

The communications satellite was manufactured by the U.S. firm Orbital Sciences Corporation and weighs 2.9 tons. It is projected to have a useful life in orbit of 22 years and will be controlled by Mexican technicians at the Iztapalapa control center in Mexico City and from Hermosillo, the capital of the northern state of Sonora.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday said that the satellite, the first of three comprising the Mexsat system, is the first the country has placed in orbit since 1994, and he called it "the most important communications project in the history of ... Mexico." EFE