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Third time's the charm as SpaceX successfully launches its satellite

WASHINGTON--After two delays, private U.S. company SpaceX on Tuesday successfully launched its first commercial satellite, after repairs were made to the Falcon 9 rocket.

It roared into space at 10:41 p.m. GMT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX said in a statement.

Its US$100 million satellite was placed in orbit 14 minutes later, a SpaceX spokesman confirmed.

The rocket's cargo was a telecommunications satellite for the Luxembourg company SES, which until now has used European Ariane rockets or the Russian Proton for its satellite launches.

“Restart was good, apogee raised to 80k km (50k miles). Yes!!!” said SpaceX owner Elon Musk, the billionaire Internet entrepreneur, shortly after takeoff.

SES-8 is SpaceX's first launch to a geostationary transfer orbit — 80,000 kilometers from Earth — and most challenging mission to date, the company said earlier on Twitter.

The SES-8 satellite is due to provide television, cable TV and other services to countries including China, India and Vietnam.

SpaceX is eager to get into the commercial satellite launch business, estimated to be worth US$190 billion a year.

The launch is the first using an improved version of the Falcon 9 after a test flight in California.

A delay on Thursday was blamed on unexpected technical problems with the rocket's fuel system. Its first attempt at launch was also put off on Monday of last week.

The Falcon 9 has already succeeded in sending its Dragon capsules to the International Space Station under a contract with the U.S. space agency, NASA.

The Dragon capsule takes cargo into space and brings back material from scientific experiments.

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A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The rocket is carrying its first commercial payload, a communications satellite.

(AP)

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