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SpaceX delivers commercial satellite to orbit

Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX delivered another commercial communications satellite to orbit early Sunday, completing its second launch in just over a month for Hong Kong-based AsiaSat.

The AsiaSat 6 mission was postponed more than a week after a SpaceX test rocket failed in Texas, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

But the 224-foot Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station showed no sign of trouble.

After a smooth countdown, the rocket roared from Launch Complex 40 at 1 a.m. with 1.3 million pounds of thrust.

Its trail of flame rose eastward over the Atlantic Ocean, illuminating a thin web of clouds overhead as it approached and cut through.

SpaceX confirmed the rocket deployed its payload as planned 32 minutes into the flight, earning the Falcon 9 a 12th successful flight in as many tries since 2010.

AsiaSat 6 was headed for an orbit 22,300 miles over the equator at 120 degrees East longitude, where it is designed to beam video and telecommunications services to China and Southeast Asia for at least 15 years.

"Although it has quite a large coverage, its main focus is to add additional capacity for China," said AsiaSat CEO William Wade.

The addition of AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 -- the latter launched by a Falcon 9 on Aug. 5 -- grows the company's fleet to six spacecraft.

Thaicom will operate half of the newest satellite's 28-transponder capacity under the name Thaicom 7.

SpaceX launched Thaicom 6 in January, and since has completed three more commercial satellite missions and one for NASA delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX's next ISS cargo launch from Cape Canaveral is scheduled no earlier than Sept. 19, a few days after a planned United Launch Alliance Atlas V mission.

The test rocket that failed Aug. 22 in McGregor, Texas, was a single-stage, three-engine rocket SpaceX used to advance development of reusable boosters, which the company believes can dramatically lower launch costs.

CEO Elon Musk said a blocked sensor port resulted in the rocket blowing itself up, and that additional sensors on operational Falcon 9 rockets would have overcome the same problem. But SpaceX took time to "triple-check" systems before proceeding with Sunday's launch.

Because the launch was to a high orbit more than 20,000 miles up, the Falcon 9 booster did not have enough extra fuel for SpaceX to try flying it back to a soft ocean landing for recovery.

The company may try that again on its next launch, of a Dragon cargo capsule to low Earth orbit.

SpaceX is one of several companies awaiting word from NASA on whether it has won a contract to launch astronauts from the Space Coast to the ISS, possibly by 2017.