SoCal-Based SpaceX Launches First-Ever Deep Space Mission For Private Company

March 3, 2010 – 09:06 am

(credit: Kamlet, CBS Los Angeles

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL ( — The aerospace industry seems to be no exception to the rule, “third time’s the charm”.

After a pair of delays, SpaceX, the space transport company based in Hawthorne, California, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday, propelling the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) deeper into space than the company had ever ventured before.

The $340 million DSCOVR is now en route to an orbital point approximately one million miles out from Earth, where it will settle in a position where there is a balance of gravity between the Earth and the sun, known as the Lagrangian-1, or L1 point.

The value of the enterprise is immeasurable for the Southern-California-based company, which now launches regular missions to resupply the International Space Station. The moment that Falcon 9 rocket cleared the tower on Wednesday, the first vehicle launched to deep space by a private company left for the stars — as well as the annals of human history.

The launch itself was slated for Sunday, but was scrubbed as the result of issues with the Air Force’s deep-range radar tracking system. The second attempt to launch was also put on hold, due to upper-level wind shears, similar to those that caused a halt to the initial launch of NASA’s SMAP observatory in late January. Therefore, Wednesday’s successful launch provided onlookers and followers with a sigh of relief.

One additional highly-anticipated aspect of Wednesday’s launch, however, was called off.

In the interest of the company’s goal of achieving rocket re-usability, SpaceX founder Elon Musk had designated a second attempt to land the launch vehicle’s first stage on a drone ship, out on the ocean. The ambition of this difficult undertaking is to be able to re-use rockets after they’ve launched, drastically boosting the ability to launch into, or beyond, Earth orbit, while cutting the cost exceptionally.


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