| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 20
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 20 A Space
Exploration Technologies' Falcon 9 rocket was cleared for launch
on Friday to put six small satellites into orbit, boosting
machine-to-machine communication services sold by Orbcomm Inc
Liftoff of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station in Florida was scheduled for 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208
GMT), though the weather might be a problem. Air Force
meteorologists predicted only a 30 percent chance conditions
would be suitable for liftoff. Saturday's forecast improves to
The launch, which would be SpaceX's 10th Falcon 9 mission,
is intended to put six of Orbcomm's 17 next-generation
satellites into orbits about 500 miles (800 km) above Earth. The
new satellites, built by privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp and
Boeing, will join Orbcomm's existing 25-member network.
"For the most part, we're in the 'Internet of things.' We
help commercial companies monitor their assets," Orbcomm Chief
Executive Marc Eisenberg said in an interview.
Each satellite in the $200 million, 17-member Orbcomm
Generation 2, or OG2, constellation has more capacity than the
entire existing constellation, he said.
In addition to 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.
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.
"We've got a great base of customers and we need to show
them that there are years of service that Orbcomm is going to
continue to supply," Eisenberg said. "Machine-to-machine
communications, or the Internet of things, has really picked up
over time. It's just kind of hitting its stride now."
Orbcomm is paying a cut-rate $47 million for two Falcon 9
flights, the second of which is slated for launch later this
Orbcomm 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 the same.
"That would be priced today at about $120 million,"
Eisenberg said. "They kind of took it on the chin financially to
make sure we had a path to space."
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)