SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket, its largest to date

Featuring nine engines, a longer first stage, and triple redundant flight computers, new rocket delivers Canadian research satellite to orbit.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Vandenburg Air Force Base on Sunday. SpaceX

SpaceX launched its most powerful rocket to date on Sunday, a booster the company hopes will one day ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

The nine-engine Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, at 9 a.m. PT, carrying a Canadian science satellite for placement in orbit. The 224-foot-tall rocket features a longer first stage and triple redundant flight computers. Sunday's launch was the first Falcon 9 mission to use a "payload fairing" to encapsulate the satellite.

"Launch was good," SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet Sunday. "All satellites deployed at the targeted orbit insertion vectors."

The Falcon 9 was launched from a mothballed launch pad formerly used by the Air Force's Titan 4 heavy-lift rocket after undergoing nearly $100 million in modifications.

The rocket delivered to orbit Canada's 1,100-pound Cassiope space weather satellite, which will be used to gather data on space storms in Earth's upper atmosphere and assess their potential impacts radio communications, GPS navigation, and other technologies.

Musk, who co-founded PayPal and sold it to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, co-founded SpaceX that same year and secured a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to provide 12 cargo flights to deliver equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

 

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