With a thunderous roar, a 224-foot rocket carrying a massive satellite launched from
On Tuesday, Hawthorne rocket maker
Before the launch attempt, SpaceX said it would be the most challenging mission to date, and technical issues cropped up early.
The company, officially named Space Exploration Technologies Corp., had originally planned on launching the rocket Nov. 25 but technical issues postponed it. SpaceX tried again Thanksgiving Day, but computers shut down the attempt after sensing an issue in the rocket's nine engines.
But the third time proved to be a charm for the upstart company in its 5:41 p.m. EST launch of an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX had launched a smaller version of the rocket six times in test missions and three flights to the International Space Station. The company has a $1.6-billion contract with
The upgraded rocket, dubbed Falcon 9 Version 1.1, is larger, with more powerful engines. The company first launched it from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in September.
In Tuesday’s launch, the Falcon 9 lifted a telecommunications satellite weighing about 7,000 pounds. It was built by
The launch was a big step for SpaceX and its chief executive,
Now that SpaceX has proven it can place a bigger satellite into higher orbit, Musk's sales pitch will appeal to potential customers in the commercial and military launch markets, which has long been dominated by entrenched aerospace firms.
SpaceX is eager to break into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program -- the lucrative business of launching national security satellites for the U.S. government.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of aerospace giants
This launch marks the second of three flights needed to certify the Falcon 9.