SpaceX Falcon rocket lifts off with communications satellite

Sun Sep 7, 2014 1:18am EDT
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By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Sept 7 (Reuters) - A Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday to put a commercial communications satellite into orbit.

The 224-foot (68-meter) tall rocket lifted off from its seaside launch pad at 1 a.m. EDT/0500 GMT, dashing through partly cloudy, nighttime skies as it headed toward space.

Tucked inside the rocket's nosecone was the second of two satellites owned by Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd, or AsiaSat.

The first satellite, AsiaSat 8, was successfully delivered into an orbit some 22,200 miles (35,700 km) above Earth on Aug. 5.

Both satellites were built by Space Systems/Loral, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based subsidiary of Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.

"With the two satellites coming out of the factory approximately the same time we were able to book back-to-back missions," said AsiaSat chief executive William Wade. The two launches cost AsiaSat about $110 million, Wade said.

Privately owned SpaceX, as the company is known, planned to launch the second satellite, AsiaSat 6, two weeks ago, but delayed the flight to recheck the rocket's systems following an unrelated accident that claimed the company's prototype Falcon 9R reusable lander during a test flight on Aug. 22.

"We are confident there is no direct link," SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wrote in a statement after the calling off the launch.   Continued...