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SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket carrying satellite

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral
SpaceX's fourth orbital launch is successful after delay
SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with 11 minutes left in launch window

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral after its initial launch attempt was scrubbed with less than a minute on the countdown clock.

It was the fourth orbital launch for the Hawthorne-based rocket company so far this year and the 11th Falcon 9 flight. The commercial space firm said the 2.5-hour delay was related to an issue with the rocket’s first stage.

SpaceX had planned for liftoff at 10:25 p.m. Pacific time Monday, but the computer aborted the countdown with 12 seconds on the clock. Takeoff was at 1 a.m., 11 minutes before the launch window closed.

The launch was streamed online, with Falcon 9 product director John Insprucker giving updates from Hawthorne.

The nine-engine rocket lifted off with more than 1 million pounds of thrust, reaching supersonic speeds in under two minutes and burning a white-hot arc across the sky. It jettisoned its first stage after about three minutes and delivered its payload into orbit about 28 minutes after liftoff.

The Falcon 9 was carrying a commercial broadcast television satellite to space for Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd., or AsiaSat. The satellite was manufactured by Palo Alto’s Space Systems/Loral.

Due to the fuel expenditure required to deliver the satellite to a high orbit, the launch did not include a rocket reusability test. Three previous Falcon 9 flights to low Earth orbit involved attempts to bring the rocket's first stage engine gently back to Earth for re-use -- part of the rocket-maker's efforts to drive down the cost of commercial space flight.

Tuesday's launch comes a day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a $15.3 million incentive package to pay for infrastructure development at a site at the southern tip of Texas, where SpaceX plans to build the world’s first commercial spaceport for orbital missions.

The company has said it plans to launch 12 rockets a year from the site east of Brownsville, on Boca Chica Beach near the Gulf of Mexico.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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