* Rocket carries communications satellite owned by SES
* Launch delayed due to Falcon 9 technical problem
* SpaceX has backlog of nearly 50 launches, worth $4 billion
(Updates with delay of launch))
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov 25 - The entry of
Space Exploration Technologies into the business of launching
commercial satellites was delayed on Monday by technical glitch
that sidelined the firm's Falcon 9 rocket.
Launch of the rocket, which will carry a $100 million
communications satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES SA
, was rescheduled for no earlier than Thursday, Falcon
9 product manager John Insprucker said in a launch webcast.
Previous SES satellites were launched primarily aboard
Russian Proton and European Ariane rockets, which cost far more
than the approximately $55 million the company is paying for its
ride on SpaceX's Falcon booster, Martin Halliwell, chief
technology officer of SES, told reporters on Sunday in Cocoa
He would not say exactly how much SpaceX undercut the
competition but did note that SES received a bit of a discount
by agreeing to fly on Falcon 9's first mission to the high
altitudes that communication satellites require.
The rocket had been slated to blast off from Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station at 5:37 p.m. EST (2237 GMT) on Monday, but
delays, including a problem that cropped up less than four
minutes before a final attempt to lift off, caused the mission
to miss its 66-minute launch window. That prompted officials to
call off the launch attempt.
SpaceX has successfully flown its Falcon 9 rocket six times
previously, including on Sept. 29, when it test-launched an
upgraded Falcon 9, the model that was slated for launch on
Three SpaceX rockets carried cargo capsules for NASA to the
International Space Station, a $100 billion research complex
that flies about 250 miles (about 400 km) above Earth. The first
two Falcon 9 mission were test flights.
The company needs three successful launches of its upgraded
Falcon rocket before it will be eligible to compete to carry the
U.S. military's largest and most expensive satellites, a market
now monopolized by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of
Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Privately held SpaceX is aiming for a much higher altitude
with the SES launch, its first stab at breaking into a global
satellite industry worth nearly $190 billion a year.
The satellite, known as SES-8, is expected to be positioned
in an elliptical orbit that reaches more than 50,000 miles
(80,000 km) from Earth, about a quarter of the way to the moon.
That altitude requires less fuel for SES-8 to fly itself
into its 22,369-mile (36,000-km) high operational orbit, thereby
extending its service life.
SES has options for three more Falcon flights, including one
on the firm's heavy-lift rocket that is under development and
expected to debut next year.
SpaceX's launch manifest includes nearly 50 other launches,
worth about $4 billion. About 75 percent of the flights are for
"Our prices are the most competitive of any in the world,"
said Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive. "We will
force other rocket companies to either develop new technology
that's a lot better or they have to exit the launch market."
SES's Halliwell said SpaceX competitors were "shaking in
"There are a lot of people who hope that SpaceX is going to
fail," he said. "This is really rocking the industry."
The global satellite industry had revenues of nearly $190
billion in 2012, including nearly $90 billion from television
services alone, the Satellite Industry Association trade group
reported in October. The U.S. share of the market is 45 percent,
the report said.