First commercial contract for SpaceX

The private rocket launch company Space Exploration Technologies, otherwise known as SpaceX, has obtained a contract to deliver into orbit a satellite for the Loral Space & Communications Inc.

The company already has a $1.6 billion contract to launch 20 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station before 2016, and is a contender to launch astronauts as NASA bails out of providing manned spacecraft. However, the company has a record of only one previous successful launch and the Falcon 9 rocket it intends to do the job with remains untested. Having said that, both parties expect a 2012 launch at the earliest, giving plenty of time to do some work on the rocket, which presently stands upright at Cape Canaveral, ready for its first launch, which could come as early as next month. SpaceX expects to have many launches under its belt, completed under its NASA contract before this other launch.

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