Low-cost SpaceX delays first commercial satellite launch


* Rocket carries communications satellite owned by SES

* Launch delayed due to Falcon 9 technical problem

* SpaceX has backlog of nearly 50 launches, worth $4 billion (Updates with delay of launch))

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov 25 (Reuters) - - The entry ofSpace Exploration Technologies into the business of launchingcommercial satellites was delayed on Monday by technical glitchthat sidelined the firm's Falcon 9 rocket.

Launch of the rocket, which will carry a $100 millioncommunications satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES SA, was rescheduled for no earlier than Thursday, Falcon9 product manager John Insprucker said in a launch webcast.

Previous SES satellites were launched primarily aboardRussian Proton and European Ariane rockets, which cost far morethan the approximately $55 million the company is paying for itsride on SpaceX's Falcon booster, Martin Halliwell, chieftechnology officer of SES, told reporters on Sunday in CocoaBeach, Florida.

He would not say exactly how much SpaceX undercut thecompetition but did note that SES received a bit of a discountby agreeing to fly on Falcon 9's first mission to the highaltitudes that communication satellites require.

The rocket had been slated to blast off from Cape CanaveralAir Force Station at 5:37 p.m. EST (2237 GMT) on Monday, but delays, including a problem that cropped up less than fourminutes before a final attempt to lift off, caused the missionto miss its 66-minute launch window. That prompted officials tocall off the launch attempt.

SpaceX has successfully flown its Falcon 9 rocket six timespreviously, including on Sept. 29, when it test-launched anupgraded Falcon 9, the model that was slated for launch onMonday.

Three SpaceX rockets carried cargo capsules for NASA to theInternational Space Station, a $100 billion research complexthat flies about 250 miles (about 400 km) above Earth. The firsttwo Falcon 9 mission were test flights.

The company needs three successful launches of its upgradedFalcon rocket before it will be eligible to compete to carry theU.S. military's largest and most expensive satellites, a marketnow monopolized by United Launch Alliance, a partnership ofBoeing and Lockheed Martin.

Privately held SpaceX is aiming for a much higher altitudewith the SES launch, its first stab at breaking into a globalsatellite industry worth nearly $190 billion a year.

The satellite, known as SES-8, is expected to be positionedin an elliptical orbit that reaches more than 50,000 miles(80,000 km) from Earth, about a quarter of the way to the moon.

That altitude requires less fuel for SES-8 to fly itselfinto its 22,369-mile (36,000-km) high operational orbit, therebyextending its service life.

SES has options for three more Falcon flights, including oneon the firm's heavy-lift rocket that is under development andexpected to debut next year.

SpaceX's launch manifest includes nearly 50 other launches,worth about $4 billion. About 75 percent of the flights are forcommercial customers.

"Our prices are the most competitive of any in the world,"said Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive. "We willforce other rocket companies to either develop new technologythat's a lot better or they have to exit the launch market."

SES's Halliwell said SpaceX competitors were "shaking intheir shoes."

"There are a lot of people who hope that SpaceX is going tofail," he said. "This is really rocking the industry."

The global satellite industry had revenues of nearly $190billion in 2012, including nearly $90 billion from televisionservices alone, the Satellite Industry Association trade groupreported in October. The U.S. share of the market is 45 percent,the report said.

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