Three was the magic number that finally got SpaceX's watershed mission off the ground.
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The space transport company's third attempt at getting the Falcon 9 rocket off the launching pad was a success. After two delays, Elon Musk and SpaceX employees can breathe a sigh of relief as the Falcon 9 rocket soared into the evening sky from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and into view for many Floridians. The official time of liftoff was 5:41 p.m.
Reached parking orbit. Now coasting towards equator, where the upper stage will, if all goes well, restart to raise apogee— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 3, 2013
The launch was originally scheduled over a week ago on Nov. 25. However, the rocket ran into some technical difficulties minutes before liftoff. "We observed unexpected readings with the first stage liquid oxygen system, so we decided to investigate," said a spokeswoman for SpaceX.
The second launch attempt was scheduled on Thanksgiving day but also ran into problems. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the automated launch was aborted due to a "slower than expected thrust ramp." While he said he hoped that the rocket might still have a chance by starting up a manual launch sequence, Musk ultimately called off the holiday launch.
We called manual abort. Better to be paranoid and wrong. Bringing rocket down to borescope engines ...— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2013
It appears that Musk and employees worked through the holiday weekend as well. Musk said that Thursday's launch was aborted due to an oxygen contamination in igniters containing TEA-TEB. At 8 p.m. Monday, he tweeted that the gas generator on the rocket's central engine was replaced "as a precautionary measure."
Any precautionary measure is a good one, according to David Todd, senior space industry analyst for FlightGlobal/Ascend. "A delay of a couple of days is not a problem," he told ABC News. "It's when things get delayed by months that it is."
The Falcon 9 rocket carried the SES-8 telecommunications satellite into a geostationary orbit, approximately 80,000 kilometers above Earth's surface.
ABC News liveblogged the launch starting at 5:15 p.m. You can read the coverage here.