CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Jan 31 (Reuters) - A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday carrying a Luxembourg-made communications satellite designed to expand NATO’s surveillance reach and its capability to deter cyber attacks on alliance members.
The liftoff at 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station followed a technical glitch that prompted a 24-hour flight delay. It marked the second rocket launch this year for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his privately owned Space Exploration Technologies.
It comes a week before the California-based company is slated to conduct its highly anticipated first test flight of the much larger and more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket, which packs three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.
Wednesday’s payload is a communications satellite built for LuxGovSat S.A., a public-private joint venture between the Luxembourg government and Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES, in part to fulfill that nation’s growing defense obligations to NATO.
The so-called GovSat-1 satellite will provide, among other things, greater cyber protection for Luxembourg’s European Union partners and NATO allies, including the United States, Luxembourg Defense Minister Etienne Schneider told a news conference on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Schneider said the $279 million satellite is part of a broader policy of doubling the country’s contributions to NATO.
Citing new security threats, a senior NATO official told Reuters in March that the alliance planned to spend more than $3 billion on defense technology, a third of which would go toward satellite communications.
Unlike many recent SpaceX launches, no attempt was made to retrieve the rocket’s reusable main-stage because the SES satellite had to be carried to a higher Earth orbit, leaving the booster without sufficient fuel to fly back to Earth for a return landing.
The same Falcon 9 booster was used last year in a mission to launch a top-secret payload into space for the U.S. government. (Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)