SpaceX launches communications satellite EchoStar 23 into orbit
Washington, Mar 16: SpaceX on Thursday successfully launched a communications satellite into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off at 2 am carrying the EchoStar XXIII, a commercial communications satellite for EchoStar Corporation.
35,000 kilometers above the earth
SpaceX, founded and led by billionaire Elon Musk, is emerging as leader of the modern commercial space industry after becoming the first to send a private cargo carrier to the International Space Station in 2010.
All images, courtesy, SpaceX
Two costly disasters in the past two years
The California-based company has endured two costly disasters in the past two years -- a launchpad blast that destroyed a rocket and its satellite payload in September, and a June 2015 explosion after lift-off that obliterated a Dragon cargo ship packed with provisions bound for the space station.
The mission took off from NASA's historic launchpad 39A, the origin of the pioneering US spaceflights that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the space shuttle missions that ran from 1981 to 2011.
To the moon and back
SpaceX is planning to fly a pair of civilians around the moon and back to Earth in 2018, the company has announced. SpaceX was approached by two individuals who expressed interest in the mission, which is expected to skim the moon and carry them into deep space on the company's Dragon Capsule.
Humans to return to deep space?
"We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year," said a statement by CEO Elon Musk.
"This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the solar system than any before them." The tourists, who were not named, "have already paid a significant deposit," Musk's statement added.