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7/15/2009
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SpaceX Hits Commercial Space Travel Milestone

The company successfully parked a satellite into orbit Tuesday, advancing its aim of building a business carrying payloads into space.

Space Exploration Technologies has successfully launched a Malaysian satellite into orbit, achieving a milestone in commercial spaceflight after a string of failures.

Better known as SpaceX, the private company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, co-founder of the PayPal electronic payment service, parked the Earth-observing satellite called RazakSAT in orbit at 12:25 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday. The nearly 400-pound satellite is orbiting more than 425 miles above the Earth.

SpaceX is hoping to build a business carrying payloads into space. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company launched RazakSAT into space using the company's Falcon 1 rocket. SpaceX charges about $8 million per flight.

Falcon 1 blasted off at 11:35 p.m. Monday from the U.S. Army's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Defense Test Site on Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll. The site is about 2,500 miles off of Hawaii.

The satellite, built by Astronautic Technology in Malaysia, will take high-resolution images of the country to help in land management, conservation efforts, and fish migration and forestry studies, MSNBC reported.

The flight was the fifth for the Falcon 1, but the first to carry a satellite into space. The two-stage rocket made its first successful test flight last September after three failures.

SpaceX has a larger version of the Falcon 1 called Falcon 9, which the company plans to use to carry heavier payloads. The company's latest flight came the same day NASA delayed plans to launch the space shuttle Endeavor until Wednesday evening. NASA called off the launch Saturday, Sunday, and Monday due to bad weather.


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