The private spaceflight company SpaceX successfully launched a new commercial telecommunications satellite for Asia early Sunday (Sept. 7) in a dazzling nighttime liftoff that ended a nearly two-week delay for the mission.
A SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) Sunday, carrying the AsiaSat 6 satellite into space for Hong Kong-based firm AsiaSat.
The launch was originally scheduled for Aug. 26, but SpaceX pushed it back to give engineers time to investigate the self-destruction of its Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket during an Aug. 22 flight test in Texas.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the AsiaSat 6 satellite lifts off from the spaceflight company's launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 7, 2014 in this still from a SpaceX launch webcast.
SpaceX's F9R rocket prototype is quite different than the company's operational Falcon 9 booster, so the mishap did not raise any specific red flags about SpaceX's commercial liftoffs, company representatives said. But SpaceX wanted to do a thorough check of its launch systems regardless, to make sure all is well.
"What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic, " SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk
Sunday's launch appeared to go off without a hitch, with SpaceX declaring the mission a success about 30 minutes after liftoff.
"Launch Success! At 1am ET, Falcon 9 lifted off carrying the AsiaSat 6 satellite." SpaceX representatives wrote in a Twitter update. "Contact [with] satellite is confirmed."
The AsiaSat 6 telecommunications satellite is packed inside a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket nosecone fairing ahead of its Sept. 7, 2014 launch.
AsiaSat 6, which was built by California-based firm Space Systems/Loral, will distribute broadband and video service throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It has a design life of 15 years. AsiaSat is sharing half of AsiaSat 6's communications capacity with Thailand satellite communications company Thaicom, which has named its part of the satellite Thaicom-7.
"The launch of Thaicom-7 is a great success, " said Thaicom CEO Suphajee Suthumpun in a statement. "I would like to thank our partners and team for a job well done. Our new bird will help fulfill the increasing demand in satellite capacity in Thailand and in the Asia Pacific region."
"This year marks a major milestone for AsiaSat, " said AsiaSat President and CEO William Wade in a statement. "The addition of AsiaSat 6 to AsiaSat’s expanding fleet of five in-orbit satellites including the new AsiaSat 8 significantly enhances our capability to offer a wider range of transponder capacity to our clients."
SpaceX has managed to bring the first stage of a Falcon 9 back to Earth for a soft ocean splashdown twice this year during successful satellite launches. No such attempts were made during either AsiaSat launch, however.
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