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SpaceX Starts Year Out Right With Successful Launch of Second Satellite

Jan 07, 2014 12:12 PM EST
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NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

Through its successful launch of a satellite for the Thai company THAICOM on Monday, SpaceX has further solidified its place as a major contender in the spaceflight industry.

The space technology company's unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at the scheduled time of 5:06 p.m. EST, delivering the THAICOM 6 satellite into an orbit nearly 60,000 miles high.

"Today's successful launch of the THAICOM 6 satellite marks the eighth successful flight in a row for Falcon 9," said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. "SpaceX greatly appreciates THAICOM's support throughout this campaign and we look forward to a busy launch schedule in 2014."

Founded in 2002 by PayPal's Elon Musk, SpaceX is one of several rising stars in the commercial space transportation arena. By its own admission, the ambitious company is working to develop affordable space travel so as to one day pave the way to the colonization of other planets.

One way the company is looking to accomplish this is through the development of a reusable rocket designed to withstand reentry. This aspiration is played out by the Grasshopper vehicle, which reached a record height of 2,441 feet in 80 seconds back in October.

The THAICOM mission is SpaceX's second dedicated to placing a satellite in orbit. The first took place early last month when the Falcon 9 rocket took off from the platform at Cape Canaveral on Dec. 3, successfully placing a 6,400-pound communications satellite belonging to the Luxembourg company SES S.A. into orbit after a series of delays due to technical glitches.

In 2012, the rocket helped to deliver a cargo capsule to the Internationals Space Station - a mission the company has since carried out three times for NASA.

The most recent launch represented the third of three qualification flights the company needs to certify the rocket to fly missions as a part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. With this certification in tow, the rocket will be allowed to compete for the job of launching national security satellites for the Air Force.

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