A �Falcon 9 booster tank at the SpaceX factory

SpaceX to launch Canadian radar satellites

Privately owned Space Exploration Technologies have been selected to launch a trio of Canadian radar satellites.

The California-based firm, also known as SpaceX, will launch a Canadian Space Agency solar science satellite called CASSIOPE from a new launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a single Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is set for September.

The firm, owned and operated by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, is already flying Nasa cargo to the International Space Station and is also working on a space taxi to fly astronauts to the orbital outpost.

Both CASSIOPE and the three-radar satellite now included in SpaceX's manifest are built by Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), which selected SpaceX for the launches.

"SpaceX appreciates MDA's confidence in our ability to safely and reliably transport their satellites," SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.

The radar satellite network, which is set to fly in 2018, is designed for maritime surveillance, disaster management and environmental monitoring. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but SpaceX's website lists the cost of a Falcon 9 rocket at $56.5m.

A relative newcomer to the US launch industry, SpaceX's client roster includes communication satellite operators Iridium, Intelsat SA, Orbcomm, Europe's SES, Hong Kong's Asia Satellite Telecommunications and Israel's Space Communication.

Also on SpaceX's launch manifest are spacecraft for the US Air Force, Nasa's science office and the governments of Thailand, Argentina and Taiwan.

"Our tally is nearly 50 launches," SpaceX spokeswoman Christina Ra wrote in an email to Reuters.

So far, the company has flown its Falcon 9 rocket five times, all from its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida. The missions include two test flights and two space station cargo runs for the US space agency, which contributed about $400m (£263m) toward the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule development.

SpaceX's 12-flight cargo delivery contract with Nasa is worth another $1.6bn and Nasa also has a separate $525m investment in SpaceX to upgrade its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule to carry people.

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