SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on a test flight, September 2013. CBS News
Cape Canaveral, FL (Florida Today) -- A new SpaceX rocket will attempt its "toughest" mission today with a
twilight launch of a type of satellite rarely seen around here anymore -
one not owned by the U.S. government.
planned 5:37 p.m. liftoff would be the company's first of an upgraded
Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, after a test launch in California, and the
first launch of a commercial communications satellite from Cape
Canaveral in four years.
Falcon 9 has sent several spacecraft to the International Space Station
about 250 miles up, but never placed a communications satellite in the
orbit where they operate more than 22,000 miles above the equator.
launch for Luxembourg-based SES, one of the world's largest operators
of communications satellites with 54 already in orbit, could establish
SpaceX as a lower-cost player able to recapture commercial launches all
but lost to overseas competitors.
me put this very clearly and maybe not too dramatically: The entry of
SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer," said Martin
Halliwell, chief technology officer for SES. "It's going to really shake
the industry to its roots."
for its part, is grateful SES took a chance on being the Falcon 9's
first customer to a geostationary orbit, where satellites match the
speed of Earth's rotation and so appear from the ground to stay in a
launch is obviously very important to the future of SpaceX," CEO Elon
Musk told reporters at a pre-launch reception Sunday at Marlins Good
Times Bar & Grill on the Cocoa Beach Pier, before taking his kids to
Disney World. "We're very appreciative that SES would place a bet on
Earlier on Twitter, Musk said the upcoming flight "will be toughest mission to date."
launch of the SES-8 satellite will be the second flight of the upgraded
Falcon 9, known as "version 1.1," which stands 224 feet tall and fires
Merlin engines that generate 1.3 million pounds of thrust at liftoff,
among other changes.
Sept. 29 test flight in California completed its mission, but an
optional restart of the rocket's upper stage engine - a maneuver
necessary for this mission - failed.
SpaceX determined that an igniter line froze, and believes added insulation will prevent a repeat.
Musk and Halliwell both expressed strong confidence that the problem has been resolved.
no stone that hasn't been turned over at least twice to maximize the
possibility of success," said Musk, noting there is still risk given the
rocket is launching for just the second time. "The rest will be up to
flight in California, SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9
booster. With the help of a ship in the Atlantic, data on the booster's
atmospheric re-entry will be collected to support future recovery
attempts, possibly as soon as the next launch from Cape Canaveral,
planned before Christmas.
would not disclose the cost of this launch, but said it is receiving a
discount as the first to go with Falcon 9 for this type of mission,
which SpaceX advertises online for $56.5 million.
last launched from the Cape in 2007 on an Atlas V, and Halliwell said
it was the cost of available rockets, not the Cape nor its facilities,
that had led the company to choose European or Russian launch vehicles
SpaceX's lower costs were enabling SES to pursue emerging markets that
require complex satellites to provide a variety of services, including
TV channels and broadband Internet, but generate lower revenues than
more developed markets.
you then put that complex, expensive satellite on top of a very
expensive launch vehicle, than the entire business case starts to become
unraveled," he said.
roughly 7,000-pound SES-8 satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp.,
is expected to serve Southeast Asia for at least 15 years, beaming TV
channels directly to homes in India, Vietnam and other countries.
It will fly close to another SES-owned satellite, and serve as a bridge to a larger one planned to serve the same region.
"It's an extremely important satellite for us," Halliwell said. "This is a big, big growth market for us."
SES already has three more launches under contract with SpaceX.
Halliwell: "I think this is (the) first of many, many successful
launches that we're going to have out of the Cape here, and I think it's
going to be very good for the entire district."