SpaceX has conducted its second mission for China’s Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Sunday, with a Falcon 9 launching the AsiaSat-6 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Liftoff occurred at 01:00 local time (05:00 UTC) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, ten minutes into a 104 minute window.
This spacecraft has now reached geostationary orbit and is currently undergoing checkout and on-orbit testing high over the crossing of the Equator and the Greenwich Meridian. Once testing is complete the satellite will be moved to its operational station at 105.5 degrees East.
Designed for at least fifteen years’ service, the satellite carries 28 C-band transponders. Fourteen of these will be leased to Thailand’s Thaicom, who will operate them as Thaicom 7.
In return Thaicom paid 170 million Hong Kong Dollars (700 million Thai Baht, 22 million USD) and provided the use of a geosynchronous slot at 120 degrees East, where the satellite will be stationed.
Founded in Hong Kong in 1988, the Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company, or AsiaSat, saw its first satellite – a relaunch of the failed Westar 6 satellite – deployed by a Chang Zheng 3 rocket in 1990 as AsiaSat-1.
AsiaSat-1 has since been retired from service, and at present the company’s operational fleet consists of AsiaSat-3S, 4, 5 and 7, with AsiaSat-8 undergoing commissioning.
AsiaSat-3S was a replacement for the original AsiaSat-3, which was lost in a launch failure. As a result of this failure, a former Gorizont satellite was briefly leased from Russia’s Intersputnik as AsiaSat-G.
Thaicom, which was formed as the Shinawatra Satellite Company in 1991, is a Thai company which operates that country’s fleet of communications satellites. Its first satellite – Thaicom 1 – was launched in 1993 and has been followed by five more satellites – the most recent being Thaicom 6 in January.
The Dev-1 vehicle was used for a series of atmospheric flights from SpaceX’s test facility near McGregor, Texas, to test approach and landing for the development of a reusable Falcon 9.
A few hours before the AsiaSat mission’s static firing, the Dev-1 test vehicle was destroyed by its onboard flight termination system when a guidance malfunction was detected.
That mission continued to orbit and was able to deploy the SpaceX CRS-1 Dragon spacecraft for a successful mission, however the other payload aboard the rocket, a prototype Orbcomm satellite, was a total loss as the Falcon lacked sufficient fuel to restart and reach its planned separation orbit.
Flying in the v1.1 configuration, the Falcon 9 is a two-stage vehicle, consisting of a nine-engined first stage with a single-engine upper stage.
All ten engines are Merlin-1Ds, produced in-house by SpaceX, which burn RP-1 propellant oxidised by liquid oxygen.
The second stage engine has been optimised for operation in vacuum conditions, while the first stage engines are arranged in an octagonal, or ‘octaweb’ layout.
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