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SpaceX pulls off do-over flight years after launch pad explosion

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket took off at 7.23pm local time Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a communication satellite into orbit for Israel's Space Communication Ltd.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Almost three years after a Space Exploration Technologies Corp rocket blew up, Elon Musk's rocket company is pulling off a do-over launch for its customer.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket took off at 7.23pm local time Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a communication satellite into orbit for Israel's Space Communication Ltd. Since a September 2016 pre-launch blast destroyed one of Spacecom's Amos satellites, Mr Musk's company is flying this one for free, according to the blog Ars Technica.

The Tuesday mission offers Mr Musk a chance for redemption after the 2016 explosion cost both his closely held company and its customer dearly. China's Beijing Xinwei Group scrapped plans for its US$285 million acquisition of Spacecom, and the company lost its service agreements with Facebook Inc and Eutelsat Communications SA, which were going to use the Amos-6 satellite to provide Internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa.

SpaceX owed either US$50 million in compensation or a future launch of another satellite for Spacecom, according to a statement the Israeli company issued days after the blast. It took 15 months for the pad to be restored.

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Spacecom designed the satellite flown on Tuesday, called Amos-17, using Boeing Co's advanced digital payload technology. It will provide broadcast, broadband, mobility and data services across Africa, according to SpaceX's mission press kit.

The Amos-17 satellite deployed roughly 31 minutes after liftoff. Unlike in many previous launches, SpaceX will not try to recover the rocket's first stage, which flew twice in 2018.

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX sent up the first batch of its own satellites earlier this year, a key step toward creating a constellation that beams broadband to under-served areas across the globe. Mr Musk is counting on the service to become a major revenue source.

SpaceX set a company record in 2018 with 21 launches for customers. Tuesday's launch is the company's 10th this year.

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