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Article By: James Dean, FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX early Monday completed the second in a pair of successful summer launches for Canadian satellite operator Telesat, the latest example of the company returning commercial launches to Florida.
A new Falcon 9 rocket roared from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 at 12:45 a.m., after more than an hour’s delay because of rain and lightning.
Less than nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage landed 400 miles offshore on the deck of SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship — the 29th successful landing by a Falcon booster.
The stage will return to Port Canaveral for inspections and likely be made available for a second launch. SpaceX believes its recently upgraded Falcon 9 should be able to fly 10 or more times with minimal maintenance, which could help cut launch costs further.
Telsesat was once a regular presence at the Cape, launching satellites on Delta rockets and on NASA’s space shuttle in the 1970s and 80s.
But like most commercial satellite firms, the company by the 90s had shifted to lower-cost Russian and European rockets, while American launchers increasingly catered to more expensive U.S. government missions for national security and science.
A commercial launch from the Cape became a rarity by the time Boeing and Lockheed Martin merged their Delta and Atlas fleets under the United Launch Alliance joint venture in 2006.
But Telesat said it welcomed the opportunity to return to Florida, where several hundred employees and customer guests visited over the two missions. Given the choice, “our customers would rather come to the Cape than go to Kazakhstan, for example,” said Tom Eaton, Telesat’s vice president of international sales.