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April 18, 2018 – 04:08 pm

By Virgil Labrador, Editor-in-Chief

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, December 3, 2013- –Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed its first geostationary transfer mission, delivering the SES-8 satellite to its targeted 295 x 80, 000 km orbit at 5:41 pm local time. After two previous attempts that were marred by technical glitches, Falcon 9 executed a picture-perfect flight, meeting 100% of mission objectives.

Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at 5:41 PM US Eastern Time. Approximately 185 seconds into flight, Falcon 9’s second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8 satellite into its parking orbit. Eighteen minutes after injection into the parking orbit, the second stage engine relit for just over one minute to carry the SES-8 satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit. The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions.

Today’s mission marked SpaceX’s first commercial launch from its central Florida launch pad and the first commercial flight from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in over five years. SpaceX has nearly 50 launches on manifest, of which over 60% are for commercial customers. Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES said that SES has options for three more launches with Spacex.

This launch also marks the second of three certification flights needed to certify the Falcon 9 to fly missions for the U.S. Air Force under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. When Falcon 9 is certified, SpaceX will be eligible to compete for all National Security Space (NSS) missions.

Spacex had two previous launch attempts last Monday, November 25 and on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. Both missions were scrubbed due to various technical reasons. The launch attempt on Thanksgiving day was aborted at the last second of the countdown. Spacex said the mission was aborted after ignition of the rocket engines due to "slower than expected thrust ramp.” Spacex then had to thoroughly check the rocket engines, which delayed the launch for another few days until the successful launch today.

Spacex has been shaking up the competitive satellite launch industry by offering lower cost launches than their competitors. "Our prices are the most competitive of any in the world, " said Spacex Chief Designer and CEO Elon Musk. "We will force other rocket companies to either develop new technology that's a lot better or they have to exit the launch market, " he added.

The SES-8 satellite is an Orbital Sciences GEOStar-2 spacecraft that will provide Ku-band coverage of the South Asia and Southeast Asia regions mainly for Direct-to-Home (DTH) broadcast services. DTH services are in such big demand in those regions that a “substantial” portion of the 33 Ku-Band transponders of the satellite have been pre-sold before launch according to Deepak Mathur, Senior Vice-President for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East of SES.


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