| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 14
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 14 Overcoming two
months of delays, a Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 9
rocket blasted off from Florida on Monday to put six small
commercial communications satellites into orbit for ORBCOMM Inc
The 224-foot (68-meter) tall rocket lifted off from a
seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:15
a.m. EDT (1515 GMT), darting through partly cloudy skies.
Launch had been delayed more than two months while privately
owned SpaceX, as the company is known, wrestled with technical
problems, weather and availability of the U.S. military's
Eastern Range, which supports all launches from the Cape.
Aboard the rocket were six ORBCOMM Generation 2, or OG2,
satellites, the first batch of a planned 17-member, $200 million
The rest of the network, which will beef up ORBCOMM's
worldwide messaging services, will be launched aboard another
Falcon 9 rocket later this year.
Monday's launch placed the six new satellites, built by
privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp, into separate orbits about
500 miles (800 km) above Earth, where they joined an existing
25-member ORBCOMM network.
Each OG2 satellite has more capacity than the entire
existing constellation, ORBCOMM Chief Executive Officer Marc
Eisenberg said in an interview.
In addition to handling longer messages between, for
example, retailers and their shipping containers or construction
companies and their cranes, OG2 will plug holes in the current
system, making the network faster, he added.
Currently, ORBCOMM has gaps of about 30 minutes to an hour
when satellites are out of range.
"We're launching directly into that hole in the sky so the
network is going to get dramatically quicker," Eisenberg said
OG2 spacecraft are designed to last 10 years.
ORBCOMM is paying a cut-rate $47 million for two Falcon 9
flights. The company originally bought rides on SpaceX's smaller
Falcon 1 boosters, but those rockets were retired in 2009.
SpaceX moved ORBCOMM to the larger Falcon 9s, but kept the price
"That would be priced today at about $120 million,"
SpaceX plans to use Monday's launch to test a landing system
it is developing to fly its rockets back to the launch site for
refurbishment and reuse.
During Falcon 9's last flight in April, the first stage
successfully restarted some of its engines as it careened toward
the ocean, slowing its descent. The rocket also was able to
deploy stabilizing landing legs before toppling over in the
water. The booster, however, was destroyed by rough seas before
it could be retrieved by recovery ships.
Monday's launch was the 10th flight of Falcon 9 rocket, all
of which have been successful.
(Editing by Tom Brown)