SpaceX launches rocket from Cape Canaveral on historic anniversary

By Jerry Hume, Erin Murray, Digital Media Producers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 9:46 PM EST

SpaceX launched a satellite from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, a historic anniversary for launches from the Space Coast.

The Falcon 9 launch was originally scheduled to take place Tuesday but was pushed back a day because of a second-stage sensor issue.

The rocket carried the GovSat-1, a defense communications satellite for the government of Luxembourg and satellite operator SES.

"This satellite will serve governments, for governmental services. It is not only military, it is far beyond that -- it is defense of course, but it is also security, it is also humanitarian, help and networks, and all kind of civil use," said Markus Payer, SES Communication Chief.

It's a project people have been working on for years, so it can be imagined on launch day that there were a some nerves.

"This is like actors going on stage, even after 30 years, you will be excited every evening when you go on stage. That is what happens with us here," Payer said.

But to everyone's excitement, there were no issues. The satellite deployed into space flawlessly, which was good news for everyone, including members of the Luxembourg royal family who were also at Cape Canaveral to watch.

SpaceX wasn't going to attempt to land the first-stage Falcon 9 booster, because it was sending into a very high orbit, and there wouldn't be enough fuel aboard to bring it back and land it. However, Elon Musk said on Twitter that the booster had apparently survived re-entry and landed in the Atlantic Ocean, so the company would try to tow it back to shore.

Sixty years ago, a launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station paved the way for the formation of NASA. At 10:48 p.m. Jan. 31, 1958, Explorer 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

John Meisenheimer was a 24-year-old lieutenant in the Air Force when he was tasked to be the launch weather officer for Explorer.

"I left the block house and went over to the Central Control where I could crawl up some stairs outside and get a real good view of the launch and could see the top part stage turning, rotating, and was close enough to see that. And of course it was quite a sight and then I knew that America had entered the space age," Meisenheimer remembered.

Explorer 1 helped discover the Van Allen radiation belts circling Earth.

The successful launch convinced the government to establish a national, civilian space agency, which became NASA.

Since then, many satellites have been added to orbit, and if everything cooperates, SpaceX will try to add another satellite to orbit Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday's launch window opened at 4:25 p.m., and the rocket blasted off right when the window opened.

SpaceX now turns its attention to its next launch: the first test launch of its new rocket, the Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy is currently the world's most powerful rocket. That launch is scheduled to take place no earlier than Tuesday.

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