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SpaceX launches its largest rocket from California coast

September 29, 2013|By Peter Pae

SpaceX successfully launched its most powerful rocket Sunday, notching another milestone for the Hawthorne rocket maker.

The nine-engine Falcon 9, carrying a Canadian weather satellite, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base shortly after 9 a.m.

It marked the first time that a rocket made by SpaceX launched from California. Until Sunday, SpaceX had launched its rockets from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

By launching from Vandenberg, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, SpaceX will have access to another launch facility as it looks to launch rockets carrying satellites for government and commercial customers at a rate of about once a month over the next five years.

"Launch was good," Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur who founded the company, tweeted Sunday. "All satellites deployed at the targeted orbit insertion vectors."

SpaceX carried a satellite dubbed Cassiope, a project of the Canadian Space Agency. Cassiope carries instruments to study space storms in the upper atmosphere and their potential effects on GPS navigation and radio communications, the Associated Press reported.

In addition to launching small satellites, SpaceX has a $1.6-billion contract with NASA to make a dozen unmanned missions to restock the International Space Station. SpaceX has completed three flights so far to the orbiting laboratory.

Separately, rival Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. said its first-ever cargo spacecraft successfully docked with the space station Sunday. It carried chocolates and clothing for the space station crew.

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