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Commercial Satellite Launches

Japan's private space industry has marked an important step. The country's space agency has launched its first commercial satellite for a foreign company.

An H2A rocket carrying the satellite blasted off at 3:50 p.m. local time from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan. It was initially supposed to launch at 3:23 p.m., but countdown operations were halted as a ship had flown inside the restricted area.

The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-built rocket is carrying a communications satellite for Canadian company Telesat. The satellite will serve Europe, Africa and South America. Engineers made adjustments to the H2A's design in the hopes of attracting more orders for commercial satellite launches.

Europe and Russia lead the market for satellite launches, and competition is heating up with the entry of a US venture company.

The rocket will travel for more than four hours before releasing the satellite 34,000 kilometers above the Earth. The flight time and altitude are both unprecedented.

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