An unmanned rocket hurtled into space Friday with a $40 million communications satellite that spent three years in storage after NASA canceled its ride on the shuttle.

The 121/2-story Delta rocket rose from its pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:09 p.m. EDT, 11/2 hours late because of high winds. It cut through a clear sky and headed out over the Atlantic Ocean.The satellite separated from the booster a half-hour into the flight as planned, with on-board motors later bumping it into an elliptical orbit 22,220 miles above Texas. The orbit will be circularized within five days.

It joins eight other communications satellites in orbit owned by GTE Spacenet Corp. of McLean, Va., which merged with Contel ASC last month.

Once operational in late June, the satellite will take over the work currently performed for GTE Spacenet by Westar spacecraft and boost the company's overall capacity.