SpaceX launches heavy Falcon 9 satellite despite foul weather

After several delays, the company sent one of the largest commercial communications satellites ever to orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Telstar 18 Vantage launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Video capture by Eric Mack/CNET

Rain, lightning and thick clouds delayed the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Florida for over an hour, but Elon Musk's rocket company managed to blast off about 45 minutes after midnight Sunday, sending a heavy communications satellite on its way to orbit. 

The brand-new "Block 5" Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 12:45 a.m. ET Sunday amid clouds and darkness with Hurricane Florence looming far out in the Atlantic ocean.

The first-stage booster lit up the launch pad as it quickly rose through the clouds, carrying the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite high above Earth.

The satellite was originally set for liftoff in July but was delayed several times. The massive spacecraft weighs 15,564 pounds (7,060 kilograms), making it one of the heaviest commercial communications satellites ever launched. The record was set by its companion Telstar 19 satellite, which weighed in at 15,600 pounds and which launched in late July aboard a different SpaceX Falcon 9.

The first stage of the rocket landed aboard the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" stationed in the Atlantic and will be recovered for use on a future mission.

The launch is the first in over a month for the commercial company, which hopes to eventually be able to relaunch the same rocket within a 24-hour turnaround time. It was also the 60th completed Falcon 9 mission.

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