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SpaceX successfully launches Italian Earth-observation satellite

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An illustration depicts the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation 2 satellite in orbit. Photo courtesy of Thales Alenia Space
An illustration depicts the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation 2 satellite in orbit. Photo courtesy of Thales Alenia Space

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- SpaceX successfully launched an Italian Earth-observation satellite, the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation 2, from Florida after several days of setbacks.

A Falcon 9 rocket mounted with the spacecraft lifted off at 6:11 p.m. EST from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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SpaceX scrubbed the launch three times due to weather worries and a fourth time on Sunday because a cruise ship got too close to the launch area's keep-out zone, according to the company.

The Coast Guard identified the vessel as Royal Caribbean's massive Harmony of the Seas, one of the world's largest at 1,188 feet long.

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"The Coast Guard is actively investigating Sunday's cruise ship incursion and postponement of the Space X launch in Port Canaveral," David Micallef, public affairs specialist with the Coast Guard, said in an emailed statement.

"Our primary concern is the safety of mariners at sea and we will continue to work with our federal, state and local port partners to ensure safe and navigable waterways," Micallef said.

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The new satellite will ensure "complete operative continuity of the entire COSMO-SkyMed constellation, which has been in orbit for more than 15 years," Italian space services company Telespazio, based in Rome, said of the mission.

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The Italian Space Agency has financed the mission and plans to control the spacecraft from the country's Fucino Space Center about 80 miles east of Rome.

The first-stage booster also successfully landed at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral.

The satellite, built by France-based Thales Alenia Space, provides detailed images of the Earth's surface. The images are used to provide defense and security intelligence, track shipping and to monitor disasters, forests and agriculture.

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Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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