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SpaceX launches rocket with commercial satellite

07 August 2014, 14:10

Cape Canaveral - A space exploration technologies falcon 9 rocket has thundered off its coastal launch pad at the Air Force station in Florida to put a commercial communications satellite into orbit.

On its second launch attempt of the day, the 68m rocket lifted off at 08:00GMT, blazing through partly cloudy, pre-dawn skies as it headed into space.

The first try, a few hours earlier, ended less than a minute before lift-off when a computer found a potential problem with the rocket's first-stage engine, SpaceX officials said in a live webcast. The issue was resolved, clearing the rocket for flight.

Perched on top of the Falcon 9 was a communications satellite owned by Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications called AsiaSat.

Orbital network

The spacecraft, known as AsiaSat 8 and built by Space Systems/Loral, a Palo Alto, California-based subsidiary of Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, will become the fifth member of an orbital network that provides telecommunication services to the Asia-Pacific region.

AsiaSat hired privately owned SpaceX for two satellite launches, the second of which is due to launch later this month.

AsiaSat previously bought rides on Russian Proton rockets, but decided to hire SpaceX after the California-based start-up won a Nasa contract to fly cargo to the International Space Station, said AsiaSat chief executive William Wade.

"We gained confidence in seeing how they were developing technically," Wade said.

Technical issues

AsiaSat had not used a US launcher since 2003. SpaceX's cut-rate launch price - rides on Falcon 9 were selling for about $54m at the time - also was a factor, he said.

SpaceX's website shows the price of a Falcon 9 is now $61.2m. The company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has a backlog of nearly 40 missions.

The launch on Tuesday was the SpaceX's second in three weeks.

The company's last launch was delayed by a series of technical issues, which then bumped AsiaSat's launch.

The satellite is designed to last for 15 years.

- Reuters


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