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The City of Titusville, Florida / Community Development / Economic Development / News

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral

CAPE CANAVERAL — SpaceX had already proven it could launch cargo to the International Space Station.

On Tuesday, the company achieved another milestone when its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket deployed its first commercial communications satellite into an orbit high above Earth, 33 minutes after a beautiful twilight liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It was the third attempt in nine days to launch the broadcasting satellite for Luxembourg-based SES, one of the world’s largest satellite operators, but ultimately it signaled SpaceX’s readiness to take on a $2.4 billion market dominated by international competitors.

“The successful insertion of the SES-8 satellite confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry’s highest performance standards,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement.

Earlier Tuesday, Musk had thanked SES for taking a chance on the Falcon 9, which had launched six times before but only once in its new configuration with more powerful engines and a 43-foot payload fairing.

About two-thirds of SpaceX’s 50 contracted launches are for commercial customers, but the Falcon 9 had not yet placed a large communications satellite more than 22,000 miles over the equator where many of them operate.

 

Martin Halliwell, the chief technology officer for SES, had said a successful mission would “shake the industry to its roots,” with other satellite operators and launch providers watching closely to see if SpaceX could deliver on its promise.

It did.

The 224-foot Falcon 9 rumbled off its Launch Complex 40 pad with 1.3 million pounds of thrust on time at 5:41 p.m.

Technical problems had stalled two attempts last week, after which SpaceX cleaned and replaced some parts of the rocket’s nine first-stage Merlin 1D engines.

As the rocket climbed into clear skies, fading sunlight illuminated its twisting exhaust plume in orange and white, and the rocket appeared to leave a wake high above the Atlantic.

Observers could see the booster and payload fairing fall away.


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