Overcoming two months of delays, a Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Monday (July 14) to put six small commercial communications satellites into orbit for ORBCOMM Inc.
The launch had been delayed more than two months while the privately-owned SpaceX wrestled with technical problems, weather and availability of the U.S. military's Eastern Range, which supports all launches from the Cape.
Aboard the rocket were six ORBCOMM Generation 2, or OG2, satellites, the first batch of a planned 17-member, $200 million network.
The rest of the network, which will beef up ORBCOMM's worldwide messaging services, will be launched aboard another Falcon 9 rocket later this year.
Monday's launch placed the six new satellites, built by privately-owned Sierra Nevada Corp, into separate orbits about 500 miles (800 km) above Earth, where they joined an existing 25-member ORBCOMM network.
SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in a post on Twitter that all six satellites deployed on target.
Each OG2 satellite has more capacity than the entire existing constellation, ORBCOMM Chief Executive Marc Eisenberg said in an interview.
In addition to handling longer messages between, for example, retailers and their shipping containers or construction companies and their cranes, OG2 will plug holes in the current system, making the network faster, he added.
Currently, ORBCOMM has gaps of about 30 minutes to an hour when satellites are out of range.
OG2 spacecraft are designed to last 10 years.
SpaceX used Monday's launch to test a landing system it is developing to fly its rockets back to the launch site for refurbishment and reuse.
Monday's launch was the 10th Falcon 9 rocket flight.