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By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 20 Space Exploration
Technologies postponed Friday's planned launch of a Falcon 9
rocket, which is slated to put six small satellites into orbit
for Orbcomm Inc, which provides machine-to-machine
The rocket was on track for a 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208 GMT)
liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida when
engineers detected a possible problem with its upper-stage
engine, Falcon 9 product director John Insprucker said during a
Flight directors reset countdown clocks to the end of a
53-minute launch opportunity, but ran out of time to assess the
problem. The next launch window opens at 5:46 p.m. EDT (2146
GMT) on Saturday.
"Clock just running out of time to give the team enough
minutes to evaluate the data we've been looking at for the last
hour," Insprucker said.
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 Co, will join Orbcomm's existing 25-member
"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 to 60 minutes 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 and Richard Chang)