After delaying the mission because of an explosive (but unrelated) launch in August, commercial spaceflight company SpaceX has launched its Falcon 9 rocket into orbit carrying a new telecommunications satellite for Asia.
The rocket model, which has previously been used for three successful cargo deliveries to the International Space Station, took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral at 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, Sept. 7.
This is actually the second AsiaSat payload that SpaceX carried: In August, the Falcon 9 was used to put AsiaSat 8 into orbit. Sunday's launch carried AsiaSat 6, which will provide television and broadband coverage for the Asia-Pacific region. With the help of SpaceX, AsiaSat now has a total of five satellites in orbit.
It takes a lot of coordination to launch a rocket. The timing has to be perfect, allowing the satellite on board to slip into its intended orbit. (In this case, the time slot was 12:50 a.m. to 4:04 a.m.). Weather conditions need to be clear and favorable as well, and the Falcon 9 was lucky to slip by a lightning warning for the area.
The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to create space transport that's reusable and fit for human cargo. The company has already been able to retrieve the first half of the two-stage Falcon 9 from ocean landings on several occasions, but hasn't attempted to do this on the AsiaSat missions. It could be awhile before we see astronauts hitching a ride to ISS on a SpaceX rocket, but the Falcon 9 is certainly breaking new ground in commercial spaceflight.