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This screenshot shows a plume billowing from the base of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket about 79 seconds into its launch on Oct. 7, 2012. The Falcon 9 successfully delivered SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule to orbit on the first bona fide private cargo mission to the International Space Station.
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updated 10/13/2012 8:00:51 PM ET 2012-10-14T00:00:51

PARIS — Satellite messaging service provider Orbcomm on Oct. 11 said its prototype second-generation satellite, launched Oct. 7 into a bad orbit by a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket, had fallen out of orbit but had provided enough data to proceed with the launch of the full constellation starting next year.

Fort Lee, N.J.-based Orbcomm, which plans to launch all 18 second-generation satellites aboard two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, said it would be filing an insurance claim of $10 million to cover the loss of the satellite and the cost of the launch and the insurance policy.

In its statement, Orbcomm suggested that its satellite prime contractor, Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev., had enough access to the satellite in less than four days in orbit to validate the performance of its major subsystems.

If Orbcomm’s insurance underwriters accept this, then Orbcomm will not need to launch another prototype, but will be able to proceed with the launch of two groups of second-generation spacecraft on two Falcon 9 rockets. [ SpaceX to Space Station: Complete Coverage ]

Orbcomm said that, had its satellite been the primary payload on SpaceX’s Oct. 7 flight, the mission would have been a success. The main mission for the Falcon 9 was the delivery into orbit of the SpaceX Dragon space station cargo vehicle, which was berthed to the station on Oct. 10.

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SpaceX and NASA, which is SpaceX’s customer for the space station resupply missions, hailed the launch as a success, saying the Falcon 9 rocket’s flexibility was demonstrated by the fact that one of its nine Merlin first-stage engines shut down early in the flight.

It was that engine shutdown that forced SpaceX not to proceed with a reignition of the Falcon 9 engines later in the flight out of respect for NASA space station safety guidelines. With no reignition, the Falcon 9 left Orbcomm’s OG2 satellite in a too-low orbit.

“Notwithstanding the shortened life of the OG2 prototype, the OG2 program engineering teams … made significant strides in testing various hardware components,” Orbcomm said. “The solar array and communications antenna deployments were successful. … The OG2 satellite bus systems including power, attitude control, thermal and data handling were also tested to verify proper operation.

“With this verification data, Orbcomm can focus on completing and launching the OG2 as the primary mission payloads on two planned Falcon 9 launches, the first in mid-2013 and the second in 2014, directly into their operational orbit.”

In an Oct. 8 statement describing the first-stage engine shutdown, SpaceX sought to highlight the Falcon 9 rocket’s robustness given that it delivered the Dragon capsule to the required orbit. Neither Orbcomm nor the OG2 satellite was mentioned in the SpaceX statement.

SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson on Oct. 11 issued a follow-up statement that dealt with the Orbcomm payload.

"The goal of this mission was to transport cargo to the International Space Station for NASA," the statement said. "Orbcomm requested that SpaceX carry one of their small satellites (weighing a few hundred pounds, vs. Dragon at over 12,000 pounds) on this flight so that they could gather test data before we launch their full constellation next year.

"The higher the orbit, the more test data they can gather, so they requested that we attempt to restart and raise altitude. NASA agreed to allow that, but only on condition that there be substantial propellant reserves, since the orbit would be close to the space station.

"It is important to appreciate that Orbcomm understood from the beginning that the orbit-raising maneuver was tentative. They accepted that there was a high risk of their satellite remaining at the Dragon insertion orbit. SpaceX would not have agreed to fly their satellite otherwise, since this was not part of the core mission and there was a known, material risk of no altitude raise."

This story was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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