SpaceX rocket blasts off with world's first all-electric satellites
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. March 1 (Reuters) - A Space Exploration Technologies rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday to put the world's first all-electric communications satellites into orbit.
The 22-story tall booster soared off its seaside launch pad at 10:50 a.m. EST (0350 GMT), the third flight in less than two months for SpaceX, as the privately owned, California-based company is known.
Perched on top of the rocket were a pair of satellites built by Boeing and owned by Paris-based Eutelsat Communications and Bermuda-based ABS, whose majority owner is the European private equity firm Permira.
Eutelsat and ABS shared satellite manufacturing and launch costs, a business arrangement spurred by technological innovation.
The satellites launched on Sunday are outfitted with lightweight, all-electric engines, rather than conventional chemical propulsion systems, to reach and maintain orbit.
That enabled two spacecraft to be launched aboard one medium-sized Falcon 9 rocket.
"The value of electrical propulsion is that it allows the satellite operator to need much less fuel than when the satellite has chemical propulsion," Eutelsat chief executive Michel de Rosen said in an interview before launch.
"You can have a much lighter satellite, so that, in theory, the cost of your launch is much reduced." Continuación...