US company SpaceX launches second commercial satellite in weeks

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US company SpaceX said on Monday that it had deployed a commercial Thai satellite, in its second successful launch in weeks.

The private firm's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying with it the Thaicom 6 telecommunications satellite.

Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, confirmed on Twitter that Thaicom 6 had been delivered "to a perfect orbit." Thaicom 6, which belongs to satellite operator Thaicom, will provide services to Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

SpaceX successfully launched its first commercial satellite last month for Luxembourg company SES, which had previously used European Ariane rockets or the Russian Proton for its launches.

The SES-8 satellite was due to provide television, cable TV and other services to countries including Thailand, India and Vietnam.

With Monday's second successful launch, SpaceX seems to be making its mark in the commercial satellite launch business, estimated to be worth US$190 billion (S$241 billion).

Its orders amount to US$4 billion for 50 launches, 75 per cent of which are for commercial satellites.

This second successful launch is also important as SpaceX seeks to be considered a serious candidate by the Pentagon for launching large military satellites.

These launches are currently reserved for the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

It takes at least three successful launches to qualify.

Both Monday's and last month's launches used an improved version of the Falcon 9.

The Falcon 9 has already succeeded in sending its Dragon capsules to the International Space Station under a US$1.6 billion contract with the US space agency, NASA.

The Dragon capsule takes cargo into space and brings back material from scientific experiments.

The California-based SpaceX is owned by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.